Pierre and Manon are poor, but they have each other. They live in a shabby Paris apartment and take odd jobs to support themselves while they work on his documentary on the French Resistance. But when Pierre begins an affair with Elisabeth, a young film archivist, their marriage starts to fall apart. A mordant variation on the well-worn trope of the romantic triangle, In the Shadow of Women finds writer-director Philippe Garrel, the reigning master of intimate French cinema, reaching new heights by looking at love from the point of view of the women who were long his muses and creating a devastatingly frank but not unfeeling portrayal of masculine hypocrisy. Befittingly, the film provides veteran actress Clotilde Courau the opportunity to turn in a luminous, constantly surprising performance in the role of Manon and to prove once again that no director in the contemporary cinema is better with actors than Philippe Garrel. Shot on celluloid in striking black and white and running a taut 73 minutes, In the Shadow of Women is a lesson in cinematic economy and depth, packing in more genuine insight, wit, and beauty than most bloated prestige films twice its length. Pierre’s documentary on the Resistance provides a complex moral counterpoint to the central theme, as well as a rare opportunity to see extraordinary archival footage of street fighting in Paris in 1945.
Jean-Claude Carrière, Caroline Deruas, Philippe Garrel, Arlette Langmann
France, Switzerland, 2015
Blu-ray, DCP, DVD
Distrib Films US