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L’Enfant Secret

Released in 1983, L’Enfant Secret signalled Garrel’s future intentions as a filmmaker. Following a sequence of extremely hermetic and mannerist studies of Nico, the relationship ended, at which point Garrel went through a period of depression and a course of electro-shock treatment, while Nico became estranged from her son and developed a heroin addiction. L’Enfant Secret proved a turning point in the Garrelian oeuvre in moving towards a mode of autobiographical fiction that he’s remained faithful to ever since. Divided into four parts, each corresponding to a familiar Garrelian theme – art, politics, the family, childhood – the secret child of the title is the point around which the relationship between filmmaker Jean-Baptiste (Henri De Maublanc) and actress Elie (Anne Wiazemsky) revolves. The central conflict concerns the irreconcilability of family life and artistic creation, but what makes this truly special is the intensity created by scenes that, in Kent Jones’ words, ‘have the tough beauty of poetic fragments in a quietly devastating film of almost unbearable alternations between tenderness and the harshest truths.’
France, 1979.
Black and White.
95 mins.
In French.

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