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September 25, 2005

Regular Lovers, 2005

regularlovers.gifRegular Lovers is a quintessential Philippe Garrel film. Part self-exorcism of the failed idealism of the May 68 counter-culture revolution that inevitably burned out in a haze of recreational drug use, sexual liberation, and the inertia of bohemianism, and part elegy on love found in the wreckage of a heartbreaking aftermath that, too, becomes inevitably lost, the film follows the plight of a young poet and draft dodger, François, as he devolves from impassioned idealist and revolutionary, to hopeless romantic (who once - perhaps, half-heartedly - offered to put aside his art and find a wage-earning vocation in order to provide a more stable life for his new lover, Lilie), and eventually, to adrift bohemian and parasitic houseguest. The film's final sequence - an evocation of the romanticism of revolution - is a fitting double entendre that recalls an earlier extended dream sequence of the French Revolution, as the latent potency of the dross opium becomes a metaphor, not only for the crystalized potential for upheaval and (self)destruction that continues to sublimate within the souls of a consumed and demoralized May 68 generation, but also, in its stabilized, incombustible form, represents the consumed residue of a transitory and ephemeral moment of bliss and paradise lost.

Posted by acquarello on Sep 25, 2005 | | Filed under 2005, New York Film Festival


Sounds interesting. I was really hoping to fit this into my Toronto schedule, but at three hours in length it just wouldn't go. I was especially looking forward to it since I haven't seen any of Garrel's films. (And I didn't realize until recently that his son is the dude from The Dreamers, et. al.)

Now I'm on the lookout for this one to play a festival here in San Francisco. Fingers crossed.

Posted by: davis on Sep 26, 2005 2:34 AM | Permalink

Garrel's films do tend to be on the long side (especially with respect to French films) since he creates a kind of spirit of the times through episodes of daily life, but there's also a groove to it. I can't think of anyone else who makes films like him (maybe a tinge of the way Bresson uses interstitial music?).

Hmm, SF just reminded me of something Kent Jones mentioned before the screening of L'Enfant, he mentioned that the Film Society of Lincoln Center was losing Graham Leggat who'll be going to the San Francisco Film Society instead. Definitely an improvement over the Xanadu dancer.

Posted by: acquarello on Sep 26, 2005 9:57 AM | Permalink

Yeah I hope Leggat's relative unfamiliarity with roller disco won't hamper his efforts to get the festival back on its feet. Another development in SF is that Susan Oxtoby of the Cinematheque Ontario will be taking over at the Pacific Film Archive in Berkeley. (Edith Kramer retired earlier this year, which was just one more thing for a Bay Area cinephile to worry about.)

Posted by: davis on Sep 26, 2005 12:40 PM | Permalink

Re: Susan--yeah, good news for Rob but bad news for me. :-)

Posted by: girish on Sep 26, 2005 5:21 PM | Permalink

Garrel is indeed a neglected maverick in France, at least by the general audience. He was mainly supported by Henri Langlois who always projected his new films at the Cinémathèque. I haven't seen any personaly, until La Cicatrice Intérieure (I noticed on a_f_b this new print made the USA earlier this summer) last week, re-released in the wake of Les Amants Réguliers next month. I must admit I'm quite perplexed after this first Garrel... although it was formally quite interesting and beautifully photographed.

Posted by: HarryTuttle on Sep 29, 2005 8:02 AM | Permalink

My experience with Garrel has been cumulative, and I didn't quite know what to do with my first Garrel either (The Birth of Love), each vignette seemed unresolved such that at the end of the film, you were confronting with seemingly nothing but this string of non-resolution before you. For that film, it made sense since these were people who were incapable of maintaining a relationship, and their attraction was more towards the novelty of being in love.

I thought Les Amants réguliers contextualizes the generation quite a bit more fully than Eustache's The Mother and the Whore. ...And the first hour is also something of a sight to behold as well, rather like a Miklos Jancsó battle scene using montage instead of extended pans.

Posted by: acquarello on Sep 29, 2005 9:10 AM | Permalink

acquarello -
While I agree wholeheartedly with your assessment of Regular Lovers, I have to quibble with your "Garrel's films do tend to be on the long side…" comment. I have seen 9 Garrel features to date and, excluding Regular Lovers, they fall roughly in the 80 to 100 minute range. It’s one the things I like about them; he tells small stories with perfect precision and economy.

Posted by: Sal C. on Sep 29, 2005 11:01 AM | Permalink

Ah, good point. I know that Savage Innocence was on the long side, since that was the one I saw most recently before this film, but I could have sworn that Le Vent de la nuit and The Birth of Love, which I saw earlier this year were also around the 2 hour mark. Odd how memory works when the characters in the film are in emotional and existential limbo. :)

Posted by: acquarello on Sep 29, 2005 11:33 AM | Permalink

Well The Inner Scar is only 1h long, but it feels like eternity! ;)
Can you believe that a couple of people in an arthouse in Paris didn't even give it 60 mins before walking out...? I mean, they knew what they were up to when they bought the ticket.
If even the cinephile crowd is disrespectful the world is about to end I tell you...

Posted by: HarryTuttle on Sep 29, 2005 3:56 PM | Permalink

Harry -
Of the 8 films I saw at BAM, the only one that had some serious walk-outs was High Loneliness. But given that it was 80 minutes of contemplating various women’s faces with no sound whatsoever, that shouldn’t have shocked me. The Inner Scar actually had one of the largest attendances of the retro, but I’m sure Nico’s presence was responsible for much of that. And it is a marvel to look at even if it ultimately held as much personal meaning for me as staring at a Led Zeppelin album cover for an hour.

Posted by: Sal C. on Oct 03, 2005 11:56 AM | Permalink

Finally saw it. A beautiful film indeed, and very personal style. As I haven't seen enough of his films, I tend to overlook his auteur trademark and it seriously dims out its impact I guess. This is one of these film you need a cultural/stylistic background to watch and appreciate, otherwise it just looks funny or clumsy.
This B&W photography, that Girish justly called "chocolate", is sublime, and often excuse some unecessary scenes.

In the context of recent events setting France ablaze, the shots of the May 68 barricades had an unvoluntary comical relief on the audience here.
Some scenes openly ridicule the police, or even the students.
Did you laugh too over there?

Posted by: HarryTuttle on Nov 09, 2005 4:16 PM | Permalink

There were some muted laughing that I can remember, like when he runs away from the police in the beginning, and when the tax man comes and everyone scrambles to hide the drug paraphernalia. The designer also got some nervous laughter after he makes himself up like a deranged clown and started acting weird, until people realized that he was having a nervous breakdown.

I think my favorite scene is that interstitial one of him dancing at a club; it was a sequence similar to the one in Sauvage Innocence where that fluidness and uninhibitedness of their motion just really captures the energy and spirit of the younger generation.

Posted by: acquarello on Nov 09, 2005 6:39 PM | Permalink

The trio of policemen with the mortar.
When François knocks to hide in a building "I'm scared, help me" and an old voice through the door asks "Are you of those who burn cars in teh street? Well you had better thought about it beforehand..." and keeps the door shut.
The boys coming home like dirty cowboys who fought all night in the following morning, and their mother making breakfast like if nothing happened.
The draft dodger martial court.
The opium poses, and the utopic speeches of 20 yold guys.
A dated nostalgia in our society becoming humorous today.

I like this wordless scene at the club too. A virtuose plan-sequence. A great ensemble performance where every character, on even ground, marks his/her personality, and couples begin to form. They used it as a trailer.

Posted by: HarryTuttle on Nov 10, 2005 5:04 AM | Permalink

very good site... lot of valuable information.

Posted by: dremz on Jan 02, 2006 1:17 AM | Permalink

Sometimes I just get so GREEN knowing you guys get to see everything months--sometimes years!--before they finally make their way back West. Aaaaack. Then again, when it comes to deciding what to see at this year's SF International, I become grateful for reviews such as this one. "Regular Lovers" it is then!!

Posted by: Maya on Apr 03, 2006 2:56 AM | Permalink

Yeah, this is one of those films that feel long, but isn't wasted time. The film is very much an immersive experience of the spirit of the May 68 generation, and a really close-felt and honest one, I think.

Posted by: acquarello on Apr 03, 2006 11:59 AM | Permalink

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