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Philippe Garrel, La cicatrice intérieure, 35mm on DV, 60mins., 1972
Moving stoically over the barren Sinai and Death Valley deserts, through glacial Iceland landscapes, Nico (of The Velvet Underground fame) stars in the La cicatrice intérieure (The Inner Scar), a penultimate muse and diva to French art house auteur, Philippe Garrel. She contributed dialogue for the film, which consists of but 23 shots, featuring counterculture and cinema icon Pierre Clémenti and her son Ari. More integral, perhaps, is the soundtrack, which consists of Nico's 1970 album Desertshore, written specifically for use in the film. The Inner Scar is an experiment in mood and stark atmosphere, creating a uniquely abstract cinematic experience, unlike any other.
Garrel shot The Inner Scar without a script, although he had already settled on its title, believing every shot in his film had to be an expression of this "inner scar." A mere 23 years old when he completed The Inner Scar, the film inspired comparisons between Garrel and earlier cinema prodigy Jean Vigo and led author and film critic Claude Mauriac to call Garrel the "Rimbaud of film." An early Garrel masterwork, The Inner Scar is also a key work in the post-French New Wave, post-1968 Zanzibar Films movement, associated with Garrel, Pierre Clémenti, Michel Auder, and Jackie Raynal. These "dandies of May 1968," with their ties to the fashion world as well as to the Warhol Factory, formed the French equivalent of the American Underground, creating intensely personal works marked by minimal scripts, use of non-actors, improvisation, and repetition, of which The Inner Scar represents a pinnacle.