Frontier of Dawn (2008, Philippe Garrel)

“The day the last concentration camp survivor dies, World War III will start.”

I like Louis Garrel, though I’ve only seen him in movies I like less than him (Love Songs, The Dreamers). Loved this one, though – finally everything coming together for both Garrels. Louis is a photographer here, comes to the house of Carole (Laura Smet of Chabrol’s The Bridesmaid) to take pictures, but starts an affair with her instead, while her husband Ed is off making a Hollywood film. They talk more about breaking up than being together, a strange, somewhat obsessive couple.

Louis with Carole:

“Carole’s been institutionalized!”
She turns out to be more than somewhat obsessive, and when she’s getting electroshock therapy I felt stupid for not realizing before that it’s a period piece… after all, it’s in black and white, there are iris-out transitions and film grain galore. But then she dies and her headstone reads 2007 and I feel stupid again.

Louis takes up with a nice new girl named Eve (ClĂ©mentine Poidatz of nothing I’ve heard of, but the guy who plays her dad cowrote Wild Reeds). But he’s still haunted by his old girlfriend, and it turns into a bit of a ghost story with great, mournful string and piano music. Awesome cinematography by William Lubtchansky, unexpected camera moves and story twists kept me on edge.

Louis with Eve:

D. Kasman:

Garrel’s smaller love tale following the epic-intimate May ’68 opus Regular Lovers, asks the filmmaker’s perennial question: how do you reconcile the unchangeable fate of the past with the quotidian sorrows and joy of the present? The answer is impossible, but the way Frontier of Dawn poses the question is frustrating but utterly effective. … Whether the choice of death is the ultimate kind of faith or the weakest of all is not something Frontier of Dawn is powerful enough to answer, but it asks vital, terrifying questions, transposed to a forlorn, gloriously star-crossed romanticism.

D. Phelps:

Frontier mostly takes place in white-walled limbo, anonymous chic, in which ageless youths spend their days writing love letters, while a gravestone reads 2007 (the ultimate joke) … Frontier is more a psychic porno, a love fantasy one step-up from a sex fantasy, about a relationship that only really works when the lovers are apart and thinking about each other (but works, as it never would in Hitchcock). … neither a visionary nor a realist, he’s no Romantic either: the Romantics locate themselves in what they see around them. Garrel’s characters look inward; nothing goes on around them. That love is the only reason to live is reasonable: Dreyer concluded the same. But Dreyer never said it was a good reason to die.

MJ Rowin:

There are a million conceivable ways to render this material trite, melodramatic, and laughable, but Garrel perfectly brings forth its eerie fatalism and its testament to love’s inextricably deceptive power to destroy. Just as his unshowy camerawork goes unnoticed until a simple pan or zoom calls attention to the carefulness of his compositions and the purpose of any deviations from pragmatic long-take coverage, so do Garrel’s narratives steadily, patiently build on gloom-drenched, picaresque rhythms, revealing an overall design only at the end.