Little Tailor (2010) Poster


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Fledgling love
I was excited to see this as I saw Louis Garrel on a Jonas Mekas film diary and he seemed like an opinionated and engaging individual. The good news is that Louis Garrel has a voice in film.

The Little Tailor is a film about a young apprentice tailor Arthur who is preparing to take over the business of son pote Albert, an old guy who has no son and heir and talks about his time in the resistance a lot. However he falls in love with a mercurial actress who wants them to leave the country together, and is faced with a choice of loyalties.

Although there is a great diversity to French film, there has existed in the western world two stereotypes relating to them, one is the nonsensical short, such as Un Chien Andalou, the other the absurdly romantic, with perhaps Louis Malle's Les Amants or any one of a number of François Truffaut films being the model, what one might call the "sweet film". Louis Garrel has created a film that, in aesthetic, falls into the second stereotype. He's shot it in black and white as well, which further pigeon-holes the movie, however the reason for this was quite mundane, he doesn't like the quality of light in Paris at night, for him it's too yellow.

Louis Garrel uses voice-overs to provide deeper analysis on the characters, to achieve what he calls philosophic distance, although what he's doing is basically a type of verfremdungseffekt. The provenance of this style is Arnaud Desplechin's ma vie sexuelle - which was Garrel's favourite film at around about the age of twenty - however it is a fairly common trait of sweet films.

The little tailor is what the French call a moyen métrage, basically a film that is between thirty minutes and an hour long. Outside of this trivial definition, it's really more about weight, for example I would classify Rivette's Coup de Berger as a moyen métrage, despite it being two minutes short of the mark. Whereas a short film usually is of the form of an impression, or maybe an experiment (narratively or aesthetically experimental), or relies on shock, and a feature film might be used to delve into "big stories" spanning lives and continents, I would characterise a moyen métrage as being more anecdotal. Unfortunately there exists no sort of traditional marketing strategy for a film like this that I'm aware of, and it seems to be pretty much an unrecognised form outside of France. Garrel has actually mentioned the moyen métrage of François Truffaut, Antoine et Colette, as influential for him.

Garrel seems somewhat unsatisfied with his era, although not an angry filmmaker, and the film is recognisably antiquated in terms of style, for example he acknowledges that the tailor / apprentice workshop situation is not something that you would see nowadays, also he is luxuriating in the chic of the theatre, but acknowledges that this is not where it's at for young Parisians of this era. Just as a poet nowadays who produced an "Ode to the Nightingale" in rhyming iambic pentameter might receive scorn, Garrel potentially sets himself up for criticism here.

Kleist's play Käthchen of Heilbronn is some sort of touchstone for this film, Käthchen being a typically high strung Kleist-ian heroine, and Kleist maybe being at heart a juvenile. The idea may be that both lovers in the movie are emotional amateurs, the right place for each for the time being as apprentices, Arthur with Albert, and Marie-Julie with her director. This a sort of marked divergence from ideas that the current cult of youth produce. I really liked the idea in the film of both lovers having heart arrhythmia, Marie-Julie has a panic attack and Arthur suffers from extrasystole, or palpitations to you and I. It's basically symbolic of not coping, or immaturity, though in a quite beautiful way. Marie-Julie says at one point that she despises Arthur for longing for her, and that love is only a secondary part of men's lives, a very naive view. Arthur is also very naive in the way he responds to what Marie-Julie says, he never listens to her repeated warnings about her character, because he's really a projection for her, or an icon.

Arthur is not an original, one can see in his drawings for example Matisse / Chagall type bird shapes, and he copies dresses. What's maybe to come from his is more maturity, where he'll be in a better position to love.

Louis Garrel is a very forthright individual who is not afraid of opinions, he doesn't show any actual theatre because he says, with theatre, one is either there, or not, you cannot film it. Well Robert Bresson for one has shown audiences watching plays within films, but it's refreshing to watch the film of someone who is so open and opinionated and engaging. He's mentioned for example that he doesn't understand how Albert (actually a non-professional actor who plays a role very similar to real life), can live in France as a Jew, after the country's treatment of them in the Second World War. I can't disagree with a word of that, but it's certainly incendiary.

Some may be interested to know of his father Philippe's influence. Their films are not alike in terms of artistic concerns, however Louis has taken technical advice, and the hotel room photography is very "Garrelian" in aesthetic terms, lots of lighting behind the camera, those scenes reminded me of Le Revelateur.

I'm excited about where his career as director might go, but even if it goes nowhere, this is a gem to keep. I think he's hoping for more, one could consider this a reflexive film, by an individual expecting to grow, much like Xavier Dolan's Amours Imaginaires.
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Almost back to the 19-Sixties
wvisser-leusden1 June 2012
'Petit Tailleur' (= French for 'small tailor') borrows a lot from the 'Nouvelle vague' film-trend, dating from the early 19-Sixties.

Back then, 'Nouvelle vague' (= French for 'new wave') significantly changed the way of filming. By using a pessimistic tone, suggesting that mankind is unable to change its destiny. By emphasizing on moods and impressions instead of on a solid storyline. By an extended use of close-ups. By a black-and-white shooting, contradicting the glorious colors from the previous decade.

All these elements return to 'Petit Tailleur', making it to an enjoyable gem of 45-minutes length. The only com temporary element I could discover was the behavior of female lead Lea Seydoux: she behaves much more independently than her sisters from the 19-Sixties.
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Solid tribute to the old masters
Horst_In_Translation16 July 2017
Warning: Spoilers
"Petit tailleur" or "Little Tailor" is a French movie from 2010, so nothing too new or too old and the writer and director here is successful French actor Louis Garrel, maybe also an aspiring filmmaker now as he made his first full feature work not too long ago. This movie we have here, however, runs for 43 minutes only, which is close to full feature, but still fits in the short film category of under 44 minutes according to IMDb standards. It is a black-and--white film and this immediately reminded me of the old short film works of Truffaut and Godard and there is also the reference to the title of my review. In terms of genre and atmosphere, it fit in very nicely. The lead actor Arthur Igual is not known to me unfortunately and same goes for his grandfather Albert who plays a major supporting character here. The star in here is the once again amazing-looking Léa Seydoux obviously, who really broke through big style since then and appeared in the most recent Bond movie too playing a major character. But back to this movie here. I enjoyed it overall. It's probably working more because of the atmosphere and the creativity in here than because of the story as we witness a young tailor who has to make a crucial decision between his new love and his profession (symbolized by his mentor). The fairy tale reference in the title is not really adding anything. There are no flies killed in here. I think the film could have been 10 minutes shorter with better focus in terms of story-telling, but like I said the plot never really feels at the very center of it. I am always a bit critical when it comes to Garrel as an actor, but here as a filmmaker he convinced me. Watch it if you like French films, old and new.
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