It is perhaps the fact that Philippe Garrel actually lived these scenes (albeit in a somewhat altered fashion I am sure) which makes this quietly melancholy film so personally intensive to watch. Add to that the Garrel fils, Louis, portrays the alter ego of the father and it is just another reason one cannot help but fall into the very film itself. Of course it could be that Garrel is simply a finely tuned empathic auteur with more to give to the cinephiliac world than a string of obscurist cinema, all but ignored by anyone outside of the mighty filmic land of Europa. It could be all of these things and it could also be the possibility that it is all made up.
I must admit at the near outset of this review that I have never seen a Philippe Garrel film before sitting down in the Cinema Village and watching the screen come alive with those starkly black & white images. Beyond hard-to-find (nary a single Garrel film has opened properly in New York prior to Regular Lovers and just as many are currently available on any form of home entertainment), Garrel is even more the enigma that Rivette was prior to his retrospective just a few months ago. So this is my first taste of Garrel the elder and an austere happening it was indeed.
Physically taking place during the temultuous events of May '68 in and around Paris, the story is of Francois, a sincerely serious young poet played by Louis Garrel and the supposed working class revolution that was attempted throughout the streets of Europe during that time (one character opines, "Can we make the revolution for the working class despite the working class?"). It also involves a lot of laying about (with the exception of a very very prolonged riot scene followed by an equally lengthy chase scene, no one really does much of anything) and pseudo-philosophizing, and eventually a love story of sorts, but mainly it is revolutionary in its thinking, whether the revolution is in poetry, love or the outside world.
Novelistic in its approach to storytelling, the scenes are long (I mean long - J. Hoberman of The Village Voice calls the film "exhilarating and futile") and this film may not be for the casual filmgoer - but then I am sure the casual filmgoer is not bothering to read a review on a three hour black & white French film about the poetic visions of revolution - and it is this poetry with which Garrel paints his ennui-driven canvas of endurance. When Francois is tried for draft-dodging, his lawyer defends him as a poet and later, when cops bust in on the commune they take the time to stop and admire the paintings therein.
Filled with much of nothing yet all of everything, and inevitably compared to Bernardo Bertolucci's 2003 film The Dreamers (also based upon the events of May '68 and also starring the Garrel fils), although with much less attention spent on the world of cinephilia (the only cinematic reference mentioned in Regular Lovers, ironically enough, is to Bertolucci), Garrel's film, the very epitome of what some call the cinema of endurance, is less a filmic link to the past, although it has a strongly-scented cinematic feel, and more a poetic one. A passively worthwhile film/poem whatever it may be. [04/24/07]