What it's about: Jeanne is a young woman who gets dumped by her boyfriend. Out of her apartment, she has no one to turn to but her father. When she arrives at his apartment, however, she discovers that he has a young girlfriend living with him. Jeanne and Ariane, at first awkward over their strange coming together, build their relationship over grief and love.
I am unfortunately blind to much of director Philippe Garrel's work but if his films have similar charms of Lover for a Day, I have to catch up with his filmography. Lover for a Day is light and breezy, only 75 minutes, but full of interesting character relationships.
Lover for a Day's most immediate trait is its use of black and white cinematography, which I suppose is meant to inspire a clean, timeless look. Given the French, I automatically was put in the mind of Godard -- obviously, this is an unfair comparison, but it didn't detract me from enjoying the film. I think that Lover for a Day is a film the great auteur could have made in the 1960s, though it would have been different, for sure.
Aside from the look of the film, here are some other French New Wave correlations: the focus on youth; sexual liberation; unconventional romantic relationships; a carefree tone; character over-dramatization [the film's wild suicide attempt]; characters staged looking away from the camera; a third-person narrator; probably more.
If the characters were to decide to rob a bank or dance for 10 minutes [there is a dance scene, though not to the extent of Band of Outsiders] in the middle of the action, it probably wouldn't have been too jarring.
There is a bit of experimentation with the camera and editing -- not to your typical New Wave degree. The film plays with shot-reverse-shot structure at times, keeping the camera on one character throughout a conversation, for example. The stylistic touches build to a fun and spontaneous film, even if it is clearly not as radically subversive as anything made by Godard.
The big draw of Lovers for a Day, however, is the relationship between Jeanne and Ariane. The set-up unravels as something like a love triangle where only one of the edges is a romantic relationship.
When they first meet, Jeanne and Ariane have a tone of jealousy -- Jeanne is unsure how to react to her father's secret relationship with one of his students, especially in her moment of need. Quickly, though, they develop a strange kinship.
Ariane nearly takes on a mother persona toward her age peer, partly out of her status in this relationship, partly out of being a more experienced person in general. She offers Jeanne advice about getting your heart broken and letting your sexual side free. Jeanne responds by living vicariously through Ariane's exploits.
I don't know if I've quite seen a relationship on screen like Jeanne and Ariane. There is something strange and thrilling about their female relationship that grows throughout the film. Their dramatic stories complement each other so well, while their dialogue naturally allows Lover for a Day to explore its themes. By the end of the film, their respective relationships to Jeanne's father became almost irrelevant, which is also a nice, subtle commentary on how I connected to the film.