Scarlet (NYFF 2022)

Scarlet (NYFF 2022)
October 16th 2022

The dream of being swept up off your feet has a long-standing relationship with fairy tales. It involves a valiant and ethereal figure, like a knight in shining armor or a dashing, mysterious stranger entering out of nowhere and commencing to fall in love at first sight. Pietro Marcello envisions these types of romances, but then breaks and reattaches them into imperfect formations, turning the picture-book premises and ethereal looks of his epics toward something more forlorn. His characters are romantics at heart, hoping to mend whatever is broken within them through the love of someone who drops out of the sky.

In Scarlet (2022), this quite literally happens, when Jean’s plane crashes into an open field near Juliette’s father’s farm. The film comprises two stories: the tale of a father and war veteran named Raphaël (Raphaël Thierry), who defends his dignity and fights to earn an honest living in a community that hates him, and that of his daughter Juliette (Juliette Jouan), who inherits the community’s hatred but looks to escape from it through a love affair foretold by a fortune teller (Yolande Moreau). The grainy, high-contrast, sun-dipped palette of the movie, shot on 35mm, helps transport its narrative to a distant but nostalgic time and place. It takes place shortly after the Great War, but it looks and feels like we’ve stepped through the looking glass.

Much of Marcello’s camerawork in the first half is rugged, like Raphaël—shots concentrate on his gigantic, well-worn hands; his bruised face; and dour, meager look portray him as a sympathetic and tragic figure. He tells his daughter, “God has chosen to make life difficult for us.”

Her part of the story turns the black and blue muckiness of the landscape into a sun-dipped canvass of red sunsets and green forests and plains. She dreams of a flying ship—one which her father carved for her—that will take her away. Something similar brings a dashing pilot named Jean (Louis Garrell) into her life. Like in Mouth of the Wolf (2009) and Martin Eden (2019), Marcello’s romance in Scarlet is disjointed and fleeting, told in bursts of passion and sexuality that never become whole. Marcello mentions in an interview that he feels he has “killed Prince Charming” in Scarlet. The fairytale undertones of Scarlet finally find their romance in an act of self-love.

Scarlet screened at the New York Film Festival, the film’s North American premiere, and has been picked up for distribution by Kino Lorber.