NYFF: Notes on Salt of Tears
There can a razor edge between being nostalgic and being passé. My 5th NYFF film, The Salt of Tears directed by Philippe Garrel and written by Jean-Claude Carriere, centers on the romantic relationships of Luc, a French provincial carpenter who desires to be a furniture maker. The film is contemporary but its view of romance and relationships is from a simpler, but not necessarily better, time. The result is a movie that has one foot in the past and one in the present.
Sometimes this works, as when Luc callously dumps his girlfriend Genevieve when she informs him she is pregnant. Or when Luc finds himself dating a woman named Betsy who invites her former boyfriend Paco to live with them in their cramped apartment. Though Betsy assures Luc he is her number one, she climbs into Paco's bed in the middle of the night when he gets lonely.
Other times seems not show an understanding of the modern world. When Luc and his friend pick-up a woman at cafe, the exchange feels like it comes from a completely different era. Likewise, the movie attempts to deal with racism when Luc and his friends have an encounter with a group of racist guys as they leave a club. The attempt is ham-handed and obvious.
Though the movie is set in contemporary times, the characters rarely feel contemporary. Again, if this took the form of nostalgia it could be a powerful device contrasting what is, with what was, or even what could be. But for that to work, it must reveal something to us about the nature of what we have gained and/or lost through the changes in romantic relationships. If it doesn't, the result is passé, feeling it has little to say about the world we live in now.