Philippe Garrel's In The Shadow of Woman tells the story of husband and wife Pierre and Manon, a happy couple, who live and work together as documentary filmmakers. When Pierre meets Elizabeth, an intern at the film archives, he becomes transfixed on her beauty, striking up an affair with the young woman to satisfy his sexual urges. Now having a mistress and a wife, Pierre is satifisied, that is until he discovers that Manon herself is having an affair of her own. Philippe Garrel's In The Shadow of Woman is a quietly profound study of the male psyche that uses a deceptively simple premise to comment on the insecurities and hypocrisy which exist in the male ego. The film itself isn't told by through a character's point-of-view, rather the relationship itself is very much the central character, as Garrel dissects the dependency, deceit, complacency, and companionship which evolves in any long term relationship. While dealing with complex emotions, In The Shadow of Women plays more like a comedy at times than a tragedy, with the filmmakers focusing on the absurdity and hypocrisy of the male ego. Pierre is a character who accepts his infidelity as simply a character trait of being a man, yet he becomes utterly possessive and outraged when he learns of Manon's affair. Through this sordid affair, In The Shadow of Women manages to capture the differences in psyche between man and woman, with Pierre being fueled much more by his primal impulses while Manon's affair is predicated on the need to feel more appreciated, wanted, and loved. While I understand how what I described sounds a bit conventional and rigidity simplistic, trust me, as the way these characters interact and the story unfolds, In The Shadow of Women is everything but that, being incredibly human, organic, and potent. While some may find the film a tad slight, I'd argue that In The Shadow of Women is really a film that is quietly brilliant, being truly about the importance of intellectualism, as the character of Pierre struggles to resist his primal, carnal urges. Throughout this story it's never questionable whether Pierre loves his wife, but he lets these animalistic impulses of desire control him, which in turn leads to inevitable strife and turmoil, both in their relationship and in his inner psyche. Subtlely profound, Phillipe Garrel's In The Shadow of Women uses a borderline comedic tone full of wit to deliver interesting evocations on the human psyche, focusing on the differences and similarities of the male and female mindset which exist in any relationship.
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