Man, the barricades
A reaction to Bernardo Bertolucci's far more sexy and colorful "The Dreamers," also set during the French student riots of 1968, famed French cinˇaste Philippe Garrel's "Regular Lovers" is 175 dragged (and drugged) out minutes of his own bleak black-and-white memories of the same tumultuous event.
By LESLIE (HOBAN) BLAKE
Called "The greatest filmmaker you've almost certainly never heard of," by The New York Sun, Philippe Garrel is still relatively unknown. Eight of his films (dating from the '70s to the '90s) were featured in a monthlong retrospective held at the Brooklyn Academy of Music this past August, to try and introduce his work to larger audiences.
The BAM catalog describes him as: "A director's director called 'the child of Cocteau and Godard' by Jacques Rivette Garrel is one of the greatest French filmmakers of the past 40 years. A child of the Paris May '68 revolts, Garrel has created a unique filmography, both experimental and narrative. He has worked with such icons as Nico, Jean Seberg, Jean-Pierre Lˇaud and Catherine Deneuve, often examining these relationships as haunted memory."
|Original title: Les Amants Rˇguliers.|
Directed by: Philippe Garrel.
Written by: Marc Cholodenko, Philippe Garrel, Arlette Langmann.
Cinematography: William Lubtchansky.
Edited by: Fran¨oise Collin, Philippe Garrel.
In French with English subtitles.
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New York Film Festival 2005|
French film director Olivier Assayas goes even further saying, "Philippe Garrel is the proverbial underrated genius. He's the closest thing to a poet functioning today in French cinema."
According to the press hype, Garrel, an aging "enfant terrible," decided that his good friend Bernardo Bertolucci had gotten the 1968 French student riots all wrong in his own 2003 film "The Dreamers." After all, the French filmmaker had actually manned the barricades himself. And so he has produced 175 of the longest screen minutes in recorded history purporting to show "the way it really was" quite possibly in virtual real time.
Garrel, now in his late 50s, was considered something of a wunderkind in the 1960s. He was only 21 when his fifth film, "Le Lit de la Vierge" (just screened at the Anthology Film Archives), offered viewers a hippie Jesus set in the aftermath of the uprisings of May 1968. The film was shot sans script, but with lots of LSD on the set. Drugs are a recurring theme in Garrel's oeuvre and "Le Lit" also suggests that Garrel and his cronies saw themselves as members of a religious sect and their actions as ritualistic.
These tropes appear again in "Regular Lovers," which finds the old New Waver, not unlike his comp¸re Godard at times, making films as if it were still the '60s. But truth to tell, an hour's worth of long shots of the heroes' backs in silhouette, as they stand watching fires they've set, is really boring!
And it's not just the recurring black and white either (though Garrel did try his hand at color in at least two films). After all, George Clooney's excellent new black-and-white film, "Good Night, and Good Luck," opened the same New York Film Festival in which "Regular Lovers" screened. And Benoit Jacquot's "A Tout de Suite" an elegant black-and-white homage to the French New Wave of the '70s was featured in last season's Rendevous with French Cinema.
Ironically, Bertolucci's film also co-starred Garrel's son Louis, in a role similar to his bourgeois revolutionary in "Regular Lovers." But if "Regular Lovers" is the way it really was (and Garrel was there, so it just might be), then "it" was nothing more than a gaggle of cute but drugged-out, loutish, middle-class French kids with nothing better to do than throw a few Molotov cocktails and then stand around watching things burn. They also talk about and/or do drugs. Occasionally they screw pretty girls. They do the drugs and the girls in a large communal living space, another Garrel-ism often repeated.
Considering the period, there's a remarkable absence of '60s music (except for a song by Garrel's late wife Nico, who was not Louis' mother). Instead there are silent-film/soap-opera-like chords meant to invoke emotional builds that don't actually exist in the scenes themselves. There is however, one truly hilarious moment when Bertolucci's second film, "Before the Revolution," is mentioned, as one of the girls faces the audience directly, breathily intoning the Italian director's name.
The title of that Bertolucci film comes from a Talleyrand quote which reads: "Those who haven't known life before the revolution cannot know how sweet it is." Garrel no doubt concurs, considering how often he returns to these events. The NYFF description states, "A young poet [Garrel fils] ... witnesses the conflagration during a night on the barricades, then experiences the euphoria of love and communal freedom ... an intimate poetic epic." That's a description of a movie I might have enjoyed, but what I saw was not only ponderous and pretentious but meandering and just plain too long!
Diehard franco- and (pseudo-intellectual) cine-philes will no doubt love this film; I didn't.
|SEPTEMBER 27, 2005|
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