Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art


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PostPosted: Tue Feb 13, 2007 3:08 pm 
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Regular Lovers/Les amants réguliers
Philippe Garrel, France, 2005, 178 min.


[Now in release in New York, February 2007. Seen at the 2005 NYFF.]

Description for the NYFF 2005:
1968, 1969: a small group of young men take active part in the May 1968 Paris riots in this lengthy and meandering historical mood piece shot in black and white for a New Wave look that's at once fresh and nostalgic. The cataclysm ends, hopes die down, boys pair off with girls, and the hash and then the opium come out. There's a painter, a guy named Gauthier who wants to design clothes, and others. The group gravitates to the house of the wealthy Antoine (Julien Lucas) but the focus is on a budding poet and draft resister called François (Louis Garrel, the director's son, recently seen in Bertolucci's The Dreamers, who looks almost too poetic to actually be one) and an art student and sculptor, Lilie (Clotilde Hesme), who fall in love. Lilie's pledge of eternal loyalty to Francois lasts till a wealthy sculptor sponsors her and she goes off to New York, leaving her sensitive and sweet young lover shattered. The young people and the Paris interiors and exteriors (Lilie says Francois is "beautiful inside and outside") are lovely to look upon but the film requires patience and the English subtitles are the kind that burn out whenever the background is white (Chris Knipp)

Comment on seeing the NYC screening, February 2007:
. . .but this is also the kind of film that burns itself into your memory and keeps coming back. It takes you to a special place. Garrel père must know whereof he speaks, because he evokes the seminal moment of the late Sixties effortlessly. With what seem like casual gestures and details, he seems to touch on everything important, the dream of revolution, the alienation from the working class, the celebration of art and love, the depression after the excitement died down, which fades into the extremism of the Seventies, the love of clothes and music and dancing. Nothing new, perhaps, but that’s why the film doesn’t push a “period” look on us. The grainy black and white, which itself is so intense it seems to burn itself into your soul, creates a time capsule of youth that’s more universal than Carnaby Street pink and greed or paisley prints. Louis Garrel is the principled young poet, and Clotilde Hesme is the strong, independent passionate girlfriend. Philippe Garrel takes time with each moment to make it real. Even battles are boring, and the escape from them is more boring still. 90% of life is showing up and 95% is waiting for something to happen. Of course this film could be cut. The piano theme that introduces the lovers and their love keeps coming back a little too often. But the very unedited quality is quintessentially Sixties. Garrel has made a film about the Sixties that feels made in the Sixties; he’s made a film for us by making a film for himself. It would be nice to get a copy of this that had nice yellow subtitles, in French. The French DVD ought to be good; the French critics were ecstatic about this film.

Andrew O’Hehir in Salon recently described Regular Lovers as “the transformative filmgoing experience of the last few months for me, but also a movie that would bore the pants and several layers of skin off many, many viewers. This kind of movie demands that we turn off the phone, stow the watch in a pocket and surrender to a sense of time that is altogether disconnected from our everyday lives. It's the same surrender demanded by old-school works of high culture, by Wagner's "Parsifal" or Brahms' Third. (And by Chinese opera, Indian classical music, Noh theater and other things I know even less about.)" Well said. Indeed this is one of those slow-burning cinematic epipahnies that may give fellow-afficianados a sense of conspiratorial intimacy and whose meaning transcends anything you can codify or analyse. Manohla Dargis has called Regular Lovers "magnificent." It unquestionably is. It has a truly epic quality (much in contrast to the beautiful hothouse claustrophobia of Bertolucci's The Dreamers), and I can only hope that more of the right Americans get a chance to see it on a big screen, and eventually that it gets better subtitles.

Available on a French DVD with subtitles in French for the hearing impaired.

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©Chris Knipp. Blog: http://chrisknipp.blogspot.com/.


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