Starring Esther Garrel. In French, with English subtitles. Rating unavailable
Don’t invite your noncinephile friends to see Lover for a Day, if you don’t want them thinking all French movies are black-and-white talkfests about attractive people smoking Gauloises while discussing affairs in cute Parisian cafés.
The effect is not entirely unintentional. Writer-director Philippe Garrel, born in 1948, has been making Godardy-looking movies since, well, the new wave was new. His recent efforts—like the similarly themed Regular Lovers and In the Shadow of Women—have been high-contrast, low-action character studies that centre on older, academic men who hook up with sprightly young women still finding themselves. C’est bizarre!
Here, 50-ish philosophy professor Gilles (Éric Caravaca) is newly shacked up with Ariane (handsomely freckled newcomer Louise Chevillotte), one of his former students. The movie makes extravagantly clear that he resisted her seductions until the end of the school year. That matters little to Gilles’s daughter Jeanne, played by the excellent Esther Garrel, the neglected girlfriend in Call Me By Your Name and this filmmaker’s daughter, adding to the Freudian mix.
Jeanne says she’s been dumped by her live-in boyfriend and needs a place to crash. The script allows for modern-day cellphones, but these aren’t the kind of people who call ahead. She’s initially upset to find someone her own age with dear Papa, but both women eventually realize they should be BFFs, sharing secrets and even hooking up with random guys together.
Ariane has a thing for boffing strangers while standing up in bathrooms and broom closets, and she really hopes that won’t be a problem for Gilles. He wants to be down with the young people, and impresses her with his open-mindedness. Still, she can’t quite understand why he loses his cool after accidentally stumbling onto one of her public assignations. When Jeanne asks him about such things, he says, “No one has ever come up with a real definition of infidelity.” Right. Rare topic! He also declares that “Philosophy isn’t divorced from everyday life.” Because he’s a professor and everything.
Honestly, all the dialogue in this draggy 75-minute film is similarly generic. Other than Gilles, more of a passive enabler than a character, no one has discernible interests, let alone jobs. That leaves time to fit plenty of lovers into a day. But poor Ariane never has a chance to change her top. Maybe Garrel thinks that makes her a fascinating archetype. Or maybe it just means he, or she, is incredibly lazy.