In director Philippe Garrel’s atmosphere-charged new film from France, “In the Shadow of Women," a married couple, Pierre (Stanislas Merhar) and Manon (Clotilde Courau), work on making documentaries together, with Pierre in control and Manon tagging along as his collaborator.

Pierre thinks himself quite the genius. He is also generally arrogant, and not very giving in his relationship to Manon, considering sex perfunctory while she hungers for more and he is absorbed in work.

He also thinks he has every right to freedom to become involved with another woman, Elisabeth, who is ready and willing--she’s played by Lena Paugam—and he isn’t any more giving to her.

What annoys me about Garrel’s investigation of these relationships and how they come to a state of crisis, with Manon engaged in some infidelity of her own, is that Pierre is neither very attractive as a man nor as a personality. One is hard pressed to fathom what these two women see in him. Women, as well as men, may gravitate to mates who are no good for them, but surely there are more attractive men whom the competitive women might find to abuse them.

More interesting is the film the Pierre and Manon have been working on, a documentary about an elderly man with a reputation as a French resistance fighter in World War II. The film comes up with a revelation about him of which Manon is aware. If she is that perceptive, why would she want to stay married to Pierre after she learns about his mistress, given the unsatisfactory marriage?

I would think the film would better be titled “In the Shadow of Men.” The screenplay is by Jean-Claude Carriere, Caroline Deruas and Arlette Langmann Garrel. A Distrib Film release. Posted November 4, 2015.

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