Goodbye First Love (2011, Mia Hansen-Løve)

Paris, 1999: Sullivan and Camille are young and in love. He moves to South America, letters arrive less frequently, and flash forward to 2003, Camille has a serious haircut and is taking architecture courses. We see scraps of her life as the years go by, trying to get over Sullivan, dating married professor/architect Lorenz, moving in with him. When Sullivan finally returns to Paris, they get together, but not for long. “I’m leaving you because it’s too late or too soon to start again.”

My first Hansen-Løve movie and it’s a good one, with the beautiful Lola Crèton (Justine in Bastards) made ever-more beautiful by regular Jacques Audiard cinematographer Stéphane Fontaine. The look sometimes made me think of Rohmer, but the way the story and the scenes moved was something else, which I’m apparently not smart enough to describe accurately (Peter Labuza says “sensually naturalistic yet carefully calculated frames“).

In fact I have a hard time defining what makes this a great movie, but I’m convinced that it is. The talk about light in building design reminded me of La Sapienza, a movie I rated more highly than this one on a year-end list, but they could easily switch positions. Ben Sachs’ article in Mubi is a good one:

The movie seems to advance by intuition … Nothing happens comfortably or predictably: Hansen-Løve will devote several minutes to a seemingly mundane action, then advance the plot several months into the future with a simple, unassuming edit. (The greatest elisions, usually skipping over a few years at a time, are denoted by slow fade-outs that suggest the line breaks in a poem.) … The film ends abruptly, and yet at exactly the right moment. Hansen-Løve doesn’t sustain Camille’s final epiphany, which only makes it feel more true to life. The character, now a grown woman capable of elegizing her youth, hasn’t experienced a lifetime of love and regret – she only thinks that she has.

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