This silent film consists of a series of fragmentary moments featuring three women (Jean Seberg, Tina Aumont and Nico) and, occasionally, a man (Laurent Terzieff) in an apartment. Moments from daily life: conversations, psychodramas. Relationships and situations are hinted at but never spelled out. (Maximilian Le Cain)
« L'idée, c'était de faire des chutes d'un film qui existerait pas avec une star, Jean Seberg. Alors, j'ai conçu Les hautes solitudes comme des chutes, quelque choses de très brut sur son visage. (...) J'arrivais tous les jours dans son appartement avec ma caméra et je la filmais sur le balcon, près de la fenêtre, pendant des heures, sans rôle, sans scénario. Personne ne pensait que c'était un vrai film mais elle était très indépendante et elle s'en foutait. Je considère que Les hautes solitudes est autant un film de Seberg que de moi. »
Philippe Garrel 1
“It's almost like going back to silent film making. And I think it's healthy. I don't think it's a regression. It's part of rebirth and growing.”
“Even if a projectionist screens the reels in the wrong order, it works.”
“Where the film naturally overlaps with early cinema is in so closely aligning its sensibility with necessity. (...) Every shot of Garrel's radically simple film seems to declare: this is it, this is the only image I could possibly film, the only thing worth filming, the only way it could possibly be filmed, the only thing that cinema was invented for. Each image is a revelation and a catastrophe.
Andy Warhol is probably the most inevitable point of comparison in discussing the work of Garrel's ‘underground’ years. They were both remarkable cinematic portraitists who worked with extended duration and effectively employed simple technical means, including films without soundtrack, to create cinemas that radically critiqued traditional filmmaking. Nico's imposingly iconic presence left an indelible mark on both artist's imagery.
When Godard casts Seberg in A bout de souffle (1959), for example, it was a decision that involved consideration not only of her talent but also of the cultural baggage that she would bring to the project. When Garrel films her as the main focus of Les hautes solitudes, all that matters is the power of her presence, the rich concentration of life that an actor can embody.”
Maximilian Le Cain4
“Garrel's camera distils the sculptural beauty of these faces with almost uncanny skill. The expressionless mask which Seberg turned to the camera for Otto Preminger is an enduring image of Bonjour Tristesse (1958), and Godard's Patricia gazes at us with the same emotionally frozen stare for the final frame of A bout de souffle. For Les hautes solitudes, Garrel seems to invite Seberg to do the very opposite, for we feel that here nothing is withheld. Seberg is not, however, giving us a documentary about a disintegrating life. This is performance of an extraordinary kind, considered, concentrated and disciplined, and probably to be counted among her finest.”
Michael Coates-Smith & Garry McGee5
“Jean Seberg was in her mid 30s when Les hautes solitudes was shot. Garrel had met her through a friend, during this most hermetic and withdrawn period of his life. Although still acting in professional (sometimes quite mediocre) feature film productions at this time, Seberg had already suffered many hard, emotional knocks and sudden reversals of career fortune. These experiences seem mutely etched into her face in Garrel’s film. In some shots she retains the fresh beauty we associate with her early Hollywood roles; in others, she seems prematurely aged. Only five years later, she would be found dead in her car, under mysterious circumstances that would be officially ruled as ‘probable suicide’ – thus fueling an enduring, even extravagant legend.”
“As Seberg appears to attempt suicide with an overdose of pills, we are saddened, but not entirely surprised. Nonetheless, this scene came as a surprise to Garrel. The suicide attempt was Seberg's idea; the first time she started swallowing pills, the director stopped filming, convinced she was no longer acting.
Because he lacked the money to buy his own film stock, Garrel shot Les hautes solitudes using ‘short ends’ (leftovers from the ends of previously shot rolls) donated from other productions. Even this feels purposeful. The shots end abruptly or with unexpected fades to white, preventing the film from getting into a comfortable rhythm.”
- 1Philippe Garrel quoted in Re:voir dvd booklet of Les hautes solitudes, 2014.
- 2Jean Seberg quoted in Michael Coates-Smith & Garry McGee, The Films of Jean Seberg (Jefferson: McFarland, 2012), 188.
- 3Philippe Garrel quoted in Michael Coates-Smith & Garry McGee, The Films of Jean Seberg (Jefferson: McFarland, 2012), 192.
- 4Maximilian Le Cain, “Cinema Reborn,” Re:voir dvd booklet of Les hautes solitudes, 2014, 4-10.
- 5Michael Coates-Smith & Garry McGee, The Films of Jean Seberg (Jefferson: McFarland, 2012), 192.
- 6Adrian Martin, “Les hautes solitudes: A Film at Wit’s End,” MUBI Notebook, February 24, 2017.
- 7Ben Sachs, “Order out of Chaos,” Re:voir dvd booklet of Les hautes solitudes, 2014, 12-17.