The setup is simplicity itself: Theater actor Louis (Louis Garrel) leaves his wife, Clothilde (Rebecca Convenant), to take up with fellow performer Claudia (Anna Mouglalis). Initially, the film’s sympathies seem obvious, since the breakup is viewed through the tear-stained perspective of Clothilde and her young daughter. (Nothing like a wronged spouse and child to churn up emotion.) Yet nothing plays out as expected in French filmmaker Philippe Garrel’s devastating drama, which examines how the eponymous emotion spreads like a virus among the protagonists, leaving them all in vastly changed circumstances.
Director Garrel (the star’s father) omits none of the existential gloominess that is his stock in trade, but in this case, it’s a virtue. Though the performances tend toward the somnambulant, that’s intentional, giving the proceedings the feel of a waking dream. Meanwhile, the gorgeously crisp black-and-white cinematography by Willy Kurant mirrors the beautiful tragedy in which the characters find themselves plunging. (One masterful shot, a mundane family dialogue on a park bench, climaxes with a sudden light flare in which even the film itself seems to weep.) In comparison with near-impenetrable Garrel efforts like Regular Lovers (2005) and Frontier of the Dawn (2008), Jealousy cuts straight to the heart.
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