-->
Reviews

Regular Lovers (2005)

Michael Barrett

The curious and intrigued among us could hope that this DVD foreshadows a resurrection of Garrel's fiendishly elusive output -- but ah, that would be like waiting for the revolution. Well, we can dream.


Regular Lovers

Director: Philippe Garrel
Cast: Louis Garrel, Clotilde Hesme, Julien Lucas
Distributor: Zeitgeist
MPAA rating: Unrated
Studio: Zeitgeist
First date: 2005
US DVD Release Date: 2007-05-22

The first and most daunting hour of Philippe Garrel's Regular Lovers is concerned with the clash between revolutionary rioters and the Paris police in May 1968. These images are paradoxical: long, static shots of unrest, people crouching behind barricades waiting for something to happen, scored by off-stage clamor. There's no real violence but we have its anticipations and effects. And it's all in the giddy moment, devoid of any context, with no expository conversations to catch us up to what's going on.

This languid montage of shadowy figures in the middle distance will lose many a viewer.

Then something marvelous happens in the midst of all this faux-newsreel construction. A group of grubby anomalous figures out of the previous French Revolution, 200 years prior, emerge from the fog of history bearing torches and pushing an old cannon! We are given a couple of minutes to register the strangeness of this before something frightens them away and they scurry back to whence they came.

It's a moment that could be read as a summary of the movie, and it's bracketed by shots of our drowsing hero, Francois (Louis Garrel, the director's son), a 20-year-old poet with an injured hand who crouches there in reverie behind a pile of junk, waiting for the cops to overrun him. Thus he's established as a "dreamer", like the role he played in Bernardo Bertolucci's film The Dreamers, on the same historical moment.

After the collapse or passing of the revolutionary spasm, Francois takes refuge for the rest of the movie in a love affair with Lilie (Clotilde Hesme), a gorgeous young sculptress who loves him but can't help wandering to other handsome guys -- a predisposition to stray usually portrayed in love stories as a masculine affliction. The emotional hermeticism of their affair is balanced by the activities of the crowd they hang with, who flutter around Antoine (Julien Lucas).

Antoine is rich, decadent and jaded almost to the point of parody, yet completely realized and plausible. He inherited his father's money and created his own revolution, he says, a world without laws. Now he lounges around, dispensing opium and worldly deflating rhetoric, providing a space for everyone to listen half-stoned to Nico (with whom Garrel made several films in the '70s). They dance with exhiliration to The Kinks' "This Time Tomorrow" in a scene so perfect, it's used as the French theatrical trailer, included as an extra.

I won't go further into plot details because there's very little plot and very many details. This is a rich emotional epic, a double-album of a movie, and it requires more than one viewing to process many of its subtleties, such as the small box of illegal dream-stuff Antoine keeps in a safe and gives to Francois, which proves crucial to the finale. Francois and his friend Jean-Christophe, a committed and frustrated revolutionary, look so similar with their square-jawed faces and bushy hair, so reminiscent of Jean-Pierre Leaud, that I spent half my first viewing confusing them.

Well, one good way to clear a room is to suggest that everyone watch a talky, three-hour black-and-white French movie, and perhaps I'm not doing my best to describe this movie's spell. If it's a room of cinephiles, however, they may answer that they've already seen it, in Jean Eustache's The Mother and the Whore. And they should be forgiven for thinking they're seeing it again, for the opening scene of Garrel's film deliberately copies a scene from that film by his late friend.

The geek's ability to recognize references isn't crucial to enjoying a film that gets inside youthful emotions of romance, camaraderie, excitement, ambition and disillusion, but we can't resist acknowledging that pleasure for those who do. How can a French movie have a character named Jean-Christophe without reminding us of Romain Rolland's epic novel-cycle about an artist's unhappy loves and his brush with revolution? How dare it give one bohemian lass the name Camille? It can immerse us in such details gloriously and without distraction, as we are immersed in the shimmering high-contrast photographic dazzle of cinematographer William Lubtchansky.

Garrel believes that artistic works should speak to and of each other. This is more than characters referring to books they've read and movies they've seen, though such Godardian chatter is here too. He has stated in interviews that although he witnessed May 1968, this movie's events and characters are more literary invention than autobiography, and its main

inspiration is Stendhal's The Charterhouse of Parma and The Red and the Black, with their heroes carried through history like opportunistic or tragi-comic flotsam.

Garrel wants us to know this, if we can pick up on it. A character mentions his brother Fabrice -- a reference to Fabrizio, the hero of Parma. One key moment, whose sense of aesthetic shock I won't spoil by describing, has Lilie mention Bernardo Bertolucci's Before the Revolution. It's appropriate contextually, thematically, and artistically, since that film is also inspired by Parma.

So this film has many clear links to Bertolucci and wears them proudly. This makes some critics read the film as a put-down of The Dreamers. In an essay with the DVD, Kent Jones makes mention of what he calls Bertolucci's "utterly awful" film, "which Garrel can't resist puncturing with one brief and extremely pointed moment." Similarly, J. Hoberman's review in The Village Voice calls this movie "superior in every sense" and "an unavoidable critique" of Bertolucci's "risible" film. These are examples of critics projecting their own opinion of one movie into another.

After seeing the film at the New York Film Festival, Nick Pinkerton (in ReverseShot.com), wrote more even-handedly, "I can't figure if Garrel's movie is intended as an upbraiding counterpoint or staid intellectual sister film to The Dreamers -- or even as some kind of disjointed sequel."

In the interview from the Venice Film Festival that comes as an extra -- dubbed by a simultaneous translater, United-Nations-like, into semi-incomprehensibility -- Garel never criticizes Bertolucci's film (and he's given plenty of opportunity) but cites it as the only Hollywood production he can think of that praises the revolution. These remarks are refined in an interview with Fabien Lemercier in CinEuropa.org:

In no way can I say that I left him in the shade since it was a huge international production and I can't compete with Gone With The Wind. But in the spirit of a B movie filmed on the sets of A movies, you could say that I pinched the costumes and the extras from Dreamers. Bernardo Bertolucci's film is, however, very important since it gives a positive vision of the revolution and it toured the cinema theatres worldwide. And that's rare, apart from Viva Zapata by Elia Kazan.
Again, it's unnecessary to be familiar with The Dreamers in order to be caught up in the delicate rapture of Regular Lovers, but these dialogues are clearly important to Garrel. The dream, which is art, is also an act of defiance. (Those dubious of The Dreamers are advised to check out Maximilian Le Cain's analysis in. SensesofCinema.com.)

Two more qualites of Garrel's film must be mentioned, or one self-conscious quality in two aspects. There's the subtle, disarming sense of humor, dropped in at random to leaven any looming pretention. As the riot footage begins, a shot of the street address "68" becomes a visual pun marking the year. Months later, when Francois and Lilie are deep in their happiest hours, there's a quick shot of the next address: 69. The following year? A sexual wink?

And why are two minor lovers called Luc and Lea? Is this really a Star Wars joke? Then there's the textural quality that permeates the film, always more or less noticeable, of flashes of light, sprocket holes, black-outs as of missing frames or reel-ends, and even iris shots that refer less to the silent era than to Francois Truffaut's use of the same device in hommage to the silent era.

When Francois takes a photo of Lilie making her sculpture, the close-up of Francois and his camera bursts in turn into a moment of over-exposure. These bits of self-conscious style don't function as ironic alienation effects to distance us from the film, but rather draw us in further to a celebration of the beautiful fact that we're watching a movie.

In love with cinema, Garrel has made intensely personal films for 40 years. The curious and intrigued among us could hope that this DVD foreshadows a resurrection of his fiendishly elusive output -- but ah, that would be like waiting for the revolution. Well, we can dream.

8
Music

The Best Indie Rock of 2017

Photo courtesy of Matador Records

The indie rock genre is wide and unwieldy, but the musicians selected here share an awareness of one's place on the cultural-historical timeline.

Indie rock may be one of the most fluid and intangible terms currently imposed upon musicians. It holds no real indication of what the music will sound like and many of the artists aren't even independent. But more than a sonic indicator, indie rock represents a spirit. It's a spirit found where folk songsters and punk rockers come together to dialogue about what they're fed up with in mainstream culture. In so doing they uplift each other and celebrate each other's unique qualities.

With that in mind, our list of 2017's best indie rock albums ranges from melancholy to upbeat, defiant to uplifting, serious to seriously goofy. As always, it's hard to pick the best ten albums that represent the year, especially in such a broad category. Artists like King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard had a heck of a year, putting out four albums. Although they might fit nicer in progressive rock than here. Artists like Father John Misty don't quite fit the indie rock mold in our estimation. Foxygen, Mackenzie Keefe, Broken Social Scene, Sorority Noise, Sheer Mag... this list of excellent bands that had worthy cuts this year goes on. But ultimately, here are the ten we deemed most worthy of recognition in 2017.

Keep reading... Show less

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less
Music

The Best Country Music of 2017

still from Midland "Drinkin' Problem" video

There are many fine country musicians making music that is relevant and affecting in these troubled times. Here are ten of our favorites.

Year to year, country music as a genre sometimes seems to roll on without paying that much attention to what's going on in the world (with the exception of bro-country singers trying to adopt the latest hip-hop slang). That can feel like a problem in a year when 58 people are killed and 546 are injured by gun violence at a country-music concert – a public-relations issue for a genre that sees many of its stars outright celebrating the NRA. Then again, these days mainstream country stars don't seem to do all that well when they try to pivot quickly to comment on current events – take Keith Urban's muddled-at-best 2017 single "Female", as but one easy example.

Keep reading... Show less

It's ironic that by injecting a shot of cynicism into this glorified soap opera, Johnson provides the most satisfying explanation yet for the significance of The Force.

Despite J.J. Abrams successfully resuscitating the Star Wars franchise with 2015's Star Wars: The Force Awakens, many fans were still left yearning for something new. It was comforting to see old familiar faces from a galaxy far, far away, but casual fans were unlikely to tolerate another greatest hits collection from a franchise already plagued by compositional overlap (to put it kindly).

Keep reading... Show less
7

Yeah Yeah Yeahs played a few US shows to support the expanded reissue of their debut Fever to Tell.

Although they played a gig last year for an after-party for a Mick Rock doc, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs hadn't played a proper NYC show in four years before their Kings Theatre gig on November 7th, 2017. It was the last of only a handful of gigs, and the only one on the East coast.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image