From Garrels Emergency Kisses (1989)
  • From Garrel’s Emergency Kisses (1989)

I’d been familiar for some time with the veteran French director Philippe Garrel (who started making movies as a teenager in the mid-60s), but only since I checked out A Burning Hot Summer at Facets the other night has my guarded admiration given way to over-the-moon pleasure. I concur with Drew Hunt’s assessment in this week’s issue that Garrel is a master, though I’d add that his is a forbidding sort of mastery, in which everything within the shot—lighting, shadow, sound, actors’ faces—carries some deliberate, personal meaning. Even the spontaneous behavior seems part of a precise plan. Yet his films can be hypnotic once you get on their wavelength: Garrel’s distinctive, drawn-out pacing and his level fascination with both minute and large-scale detail can dissolve whatever’s happening around you and distend your sense of time. The experience is comparable to being on drugs—which may explain why I’m turning into a Garrel addict.