‘The Salt of Tears’ Review: More Than Just a Cad’s Progress
As soon as Luc returns to his provincial town, a run-in with Geneviève (Louise Chevillotte), a former teenage love, immediately heats up. Luc, who is eager to follow, is very committed. He continues to advertise Djemila from afar. He seems to have reached an all-too-common male “adulthood”: that is, one of deceit and self-service, punctuated by remorse that does nothing but flatter his idea of himself.
When Geneviève Luc says she is pregnant, he reacts irritably: “You can’t do that to me.” Once he’s back in Paris, it’s satisfying to see a girl he follows into a cafe saying, “Get back or I’ll call the police.”
Garrel’s films often feel stuck in time. In this picture, the characters in a dance club spin in a funny, stylized way ecstatically to a song by the French band Téléphone from the 1970s. But sharp touches here, like the young woman who scolds Luc and the disruption of a multiracial double date by bigots, show the filmmaker’s understanding of the contemporary world.
“The Salt of Tears” is much more than the progress of a Cad. There are fleeting shadows of Flaubert in this story, which Garrel created in collaboration with two venerable screenwriters, Jean-Claude Carrière and Arlette Langmann. “He wondered if he had known love,” notes the dispassionate narrator of the film at one point. Luc concludes that he didn’t because he hasn’t been destroyed by the emotion yet.
A romance with a third woman, the free-spirited Betsy (Souheila Yacoub), puts Luc down a bit, especially after she invited an old friend of hers to live with them in Luc’s shoebox apartment. But Luc’s true comeuppance comes from an entirely different relationship, and Garrel’s structure is particularly cunning. The director’s thrifty style allows him to achieve maximum emotional impact with relatively conventional effects. When he presents a rare close-up, it not only makes itself felt in the moment, but also prepares the film’s devastating finale.
The salt of tears
Not rated. In French with subtitles. Running time: 1 hour 40 minutes. Watch in the film forum.