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The Salt of Tears (Le Sel des Larmes)

Director - Philippe Garrel - 2020

"Dirty gem"
Urgent in its simplicity, Philippe Garrel's filmmaking continues to impress after nearly six decades; his latest movie examines the romantic life of a young man from the the countryside who moves to Paris in order to study - live from the Berlinale


The young and charming Luc (first-time actor Logann Antuofermo) is visiting Paris in order to take an exam for a local joinery school. He lives with his much older father (the veteran André Wilms) in an unnamed rural town. Upon arriving in the French capital, the meets the naive Djemila (Oulaya Amamra) at the bus stop. They spend some time together and fall madly in love with each other. The few hours that they spend together wiull be carved in their memories forever. But Luc has soon to return home, and he has to wait months for the exam results.

Back home, Luc encounters Geneviève (Louise Chevillotte), a lover from six years earlier who had moved to a different town. The two immediately begin an intense relationship. His heart is split between the two women. He chooses the more convenient relationship with Geneviève, unaware that he would be soon accepted into the joinery school and have to move to Paris. He simply fails to turn up at the hotel that he booked himself when Djemila shows up for an intended reunion. But that won’t be his last gesture of “cowardice” (a word he uses himself in order to describe his questionable behaviour).

Geneviève reveals that she’s pregnant shortly before Luc departs to Paris, infuriating the gorgeous garçon. In Paris, Luc’s more candid and ingenuous side is quickly wiped out by the hedonistic lifestyle. He makes friends, goes out to clubs and brothels. He soon finds out that not all females are vulnerable and easily manipulated. The realisation of his own frailties is both painful cruel. Could it be that his feelings for Djemila and Geneviève were his only experiences of real love?

This is indeed a banal and ordinary tale, in the hands of an extraordinary director. The story is both palpable and heart-wrenching. It’s impossible not to be moved by the grief-stricken Djemila and Geneviève, and not to laugh at ironic surprises that life has in store for the fallible yet irresistible Luc. All filmed in black and white, in Carrel’s frugal and plain style, which remains as Truffaut-esque as ever. Hardly innovative, yet entirely auspicious.

There is only one element of The Salt of Tears that’s a little disconnected from reality. Despite being set in 2019, technology is almost entirely absent in the film. Lovers never exchange an email or even their telephone numbers. Meetings are arranged verbally, and there’s not a single electronic message exchanged. That’s perhaps because the 72-year-old director Garrel wrote the script himself, and he’s not entirely in touch with the reality of young people. A little peculiar, but it won’t prevent you from engaging with this profoundly frank and human story.

The Salt of Tears has just premiered at the 70th Berlin International Film Festival, and it’s in Competition for the much coveted Golden Bear. A viable contender.

"Dirty gem"

By Victor Fraga - 22-02-2020

By Victor Fraga - 22-02-2020

Victor Fraga is a Brazilian born and London-based journalist and filmmaker with more than 15 years of involvement in the cinema industry and beyond. He is an LGBT writer, and describes himself as a di...

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