Le lit de la vierge (The Virgin’s Bed). 1969. France. Written and directed by Philippe Garrel. With Garrel, Pierre Clémenti, Zouzou. 35mm. In French; English subtitles. Courtesy the Film Desk. 95 min.
Philippe Garrel’s free-form Biblical tale, supposedly filmed in the Moroccan desert without a script and under the influence of LSD, was an allegory for the 1968 student movement at a crossroads. Pierre Clémenti is spellbinding as an afflicted hippie-Christ figure, while Zouzou, as both Virgin Mary and Mary Magdalene, tries to set him back on his destined path (two years before her best-known role, in Éric Rohmer’s Love in the Afternoon). Clémenti associated The Virgin’s Bed with his other so-called prophetic films, which reflected the period’s revolutionary fervor meeting its breaking point. Within a year of this second collaboration with Garrel, he appeared in Miklós Jancsó’s vision of Milan under the terror of the Red Brigades in The Pacifist and Glauber Rocha’s delirious foretelling of Francisco Franco’s demise in Cutting Heads. “It was a time of great passions,” the actor later reflected, “but much of it went to waste.”