Cinema of the underground
in Philippe Garrel
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Garrel’s underground period (1969–1978) saw the release of seven films, all made in collaboration with his partner Nico (Christa Päffgen, 1938–1988). Rather than analysing these films as a single category, two subcategories are proposed. The first category is associated with wealth, when Garrel was able to draw upon the generous support of a donor, Sylvina Boissonnas. The second is associated with poverty, covering the latter part of this underground period when his work was self-produced with modest resources. The chapter considers the relationship between Garrel’s cinema and the American Underground, looking in particular at the connection with Warhol’s use of portraiture in films made during his first Factory period. The chapter also looks to the precepts of the Italian avant-garde Arte Povera as a way of interpreting the political significance of the poverist modes of production that Garrel developed latterly. It argues that the film-maker’s poverist modes suggest a continued fidelity to the dissidence and non-conformism of May 68.

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