View Full Version : Philippe Garrel's REGULAR LOVERS

oscar jubis
10-12-2007, 11:27 AM
At age 20, Philippe Garrel shot a 10-minute documentary (a so-called "Actualites Revolutionnaires") about "the events of May 1968" from the passenger seat of Jean Luc Godard's Ferrari. At the time, he considered it inappropriate to film the clashes between students and police. His latest film, Regular Lovers, includes a 25-minute segment showing a group of students rioting and dodging capture. Garrel focuses primarily on a 20 year-old student-poet named Francois, played by his son Louis. Like most protagonists in Garrel films, Francois can be said to be a version of the director at a point in his life. The film's central theme is the political and romantic disillusionment experienced by Francois at the end of the turbulent 1960s.
The contrast between the idealist, cash-strapped Francois and the comparably jaded Antoine emerges forcefully during the first half. Antoine lives off his deceased father's inheritance and provides drugs and a crash-pad to Francois and others. Garrel has begrudgingly and gradually incorporated scripted dialogue into his films over his 40-years of filmmaking. His script for Regular Lovers might be his best:

Francois: "Do you want to have a revolution?"
Antoine: "I had it when I inherited. With my cash I've created for myself a kingdom without laws"

Antoine: "You're lucky, hating your dad makes you do things.
Francois: "I don't hate him. I feel sorry for him"
"I'd like to live in a society where dads and sons don't hate each other"

Unidentified young man in between hits of hashish: "Nothing resembles a priest more than a militant. They've got it all. They've got the Truth. It's not the Bible but the Red Book. What's the difference?"

The second half of the 3-hour film centers on the love affair between Francois and Lilie, a budding sculptress. She loves Francois but asks for permission to engage in casual sex with others, including a painter. However, what threatens to separate them is an offer Lilie receives from an older artist and mentor who plans to move to the States. There's a lot going on peripherally, including a gay boy having a nervous breakdown precipitated by romantic rejection and hallucinogens. The typical sad and melancholy "Garrel mood" (Kent Jones' excellent 1997 Film Comment essay is appropiately titled "Sad and Proud of It") is broken midway by a buoyant scene featuring a bunch of kids dancing freely to The Kinks' "This Time Tomorrow".

Not unlike other films by Garrel (I've only managed to see The Birth of Love and Sauvage Innocence), many filmgoers will find Regular Lovers a bit challenging and daunting. His films feature long, virtually silent stretches. Perhaps most idiosyncratic is Garrel's tendency to edit between shots and between sequences. Consequently, one is often "dropped" in the middle of dramatic exchanges or removed from them prematurely. The loss of narrative clarity is compensated by huge gains in mood specificity and authenticity. These virtues have been caused critics to compare Regular Lovers favorably versus the similarly-themed The Dreamers, the Bertolucci film which also features Louis Garrel (and the same props and costumes, as revealed by the director in an interview). Another major difference between the two films is the sexual explicitness of The Dreamers in contrast with Garrel's long-standing policy of sexual elision.

The authenticity and realism of Regular Lovers, about as faithful an evocation of the late 60s as I've ever seen, doesn't extend to every formal aspect and to every scene. The multi-tonal black & white lensing of William Lubtchansky and the depopulated streets in the outdoor sequences are signs of stylization. There's also a dream sequence in which Francois and Lilie wear clothes from a different era and a scene that breaks the fourth wall, when Lilie turns her head towards the contemporary viewer and informs that Before the Revolution was directed by "Bernardo...Bertolucci". Regular Lovers affords a rich and original experience. It's an absolute must-see for the adventurous film lover.

Perhaps the NYC-only theatrical release of a film by Philippe Garrel is not wide enough to spur a celebration, but the subsequent DVD release of Regular Lovers merits one. He's been making films for four decades and finally Americans from anywhere can sample his unique style of highly personal filmmaking. The disc features a gorgeous transfer and the 30-min press conference given at the Venice Film Festival.

Chris Knipp
10-20-2007, 07:10 AM
Thanks for linking me to this informative comment, which sets Regular Lovers so nicely in Philippe Garrel's total body of work. I'm indebted to you for such specifics as the music used in the dance sequence (a highlight, and used in trailers for the film as you know) and the editing techniques peculiar to Garrel's style (alternation of shot with sequence creating a mood-specific effect) as well as the stinginess with dialogue being typical of his work. How nice that this starring his budding-filmstar son Louis may be his best work. Now this is out on a US DVD I guess I'll have to get a copy. It is truly cool and a unique experience.

oscar jubis
10-23-2007, 10:20 AM
Thanks for your very kind words. I hope I don't sound too immodest when I say I just had to write this review because I couldn't find any I liked. It has a lot to do with critics here not having any previous acquaintance with Garrel's films, I think. Three American critics I know have written previously about Garrel: Rosenbaum didn't write a long review, Kent Jones doesn't review films regularly, and J. Hoberman's review is below his high standards_he talks about, for instance, Regular Lovers' having an "absence of cinephilia" when the film opens with a scene lifted off The Mother and the Whore by Jean Eustache, Garrel's close friend and mentor who killed himself, and there's a blatantly obvious reference to Bertolucci's Before the Revolution, among others.

Garrel's best work?
I personally think the preceding Sauvage Innocence is even better, and La Naissance de l'amour (early 90s) speaks more to my own personal issues although it's probably not as great as the other two.

Chris Knipp
10-23-2007, 11:18 AM
In haste--I look forward to seeing other Philippe Garrel films. And look forward to acquiring a copy of the Regular Lovers DVD.

oscar jubis
10-24-2007, 12:36 PM
Your best bet is getting the dvds right there in Paris.

Chris Knipp
10-25-2007, 05:54 AM
Why, because of better bunus material?

oscar jubis
10-25-2007, 10:18 AM
As far as catching Garrel films other than REGULAR LOVERS, the only one on dvd in the US, your best bet would be buying any of the 7 other titles available on dvd in France. I don't know if all of them have English subs. I know three that do: LE LIT DE LA VIERGE, LA NAISSANCE DE L'AMOUR and SAUVAGE INNOCENCE.

Chris Knipp
10-26-2007, 05:45 AM
I don't know if I'm going to buy any French DVDs. When I did so two years ago, I had weird problems with a lot of them later. Plus there are other problems right now and I don't have a whole lot of time left. I don't need English subtitles if they have French ones for the hearing impaired--that is excellent for my French practice. I can follow French subtitles and they clarify what I'm hearing.

I'm thinking of trying to find the Gianni Amelio films, if they exist on Italian DVDs, that you can't get in the USA. In Italy, that is.