Written by Marc Cholodenko, Caroline Deruas-Garrel, and Philippe Garrel
Cinematography by Willy Kurant
Editing by Yann Dedet
Original music by John Cale
Cast: Monica Bellucci, Louis Garrel, Céline Sallette, Jérôme Robart
France, 2011, IFC, BluRay, color, 95 min.
French with English subtitles
Read program notes (coming soon)
Too often dismissed as boring or pretentious, cinema-poet Philippe Garrel is more appropriately considered a master of elegant contemplation and composition. Perhaps the ultimate voyeur, he focuses the camera on his characters, alone or in intimate groupings, and often allows us to watch them thinking about their situations rather than acting on them. Certainly the four characters of A BURNING HOT SUMMER talk of art, politics, and love, but their silences are just as poignant in revealing their complex relationships, which blossom, mature, and then inevitably disintegrate.
A BURNING HOT SUMMER begins with the end of a life in an intentional car crash. Paul, a wannabe actor and political activist of sorts, becomes our guide to the months before Frédéric’s metallic suicide.
Frédéric, who has inherited enough money to free him from work, dabbles in art and is married to Angele, a film actress with a promising future. He unexpectedly invites a new acquaintance, Paul, and his girlfriend Elizabeth to move into his place in Rome during the summer. The two men spend a lot of time together endlessly discussing a wide array of subjects – Frédéric, mainly about relationships and art; Paul, about “the revolution.” The latter subject is of no interest to Frédéric: “I have my painting, my wife, love, and art. That’s what I hold on to.”
After initial disinterest, Angele and Elizabeth bond over clothing, followed by discussions of love, relationships, marriage, and infidelity. Elizabeth simply wants to be loved, while Angele is particularly distressed with Frédéric’s insistence on fidelity – hers, not his. She feels that he is holding her back from pursuing her acting career as far as possible, and one career move involves a relationship with a producer.
Just as Frédéric and Angele are splitting apart, Paul discovers that Elizabeth is pregnant. They move back to Paris on their own. It is there that Paul will receive the phone call from the hospital about Frédéric’s car “accident.”