Starring Louis Garrel and Clotilde Hesme. In French with English subtitles. Unrated. Plays Friday to Tuesday, May 18 to 22, at the Vancity Theatre
May 1968 was probably the last month in human history when it briefly looked as if the world might change: everywhere, for the better, and forever. How this beautiful but incredibly fragile dream came to collapse is the subject of Philippe Garrel's three-hour pocket epic, Regular Lovers .
A film in two parts (roughly corresponding to the years 1968 and 1969), Regular Lovers was shot in a sparkling black-and-white that can't help but remind viewers of Jean Eustache's 1973 The Mother and the Whore , up until now the last wide-screen word on the self-deceptions of post-revolutionary French youth.
Ace cinematographer William Lubtchansky artfully blocks each scene so we never get an overview of anything, a strategy that obliges us to live the story rather than merely watch it. This rule isn't just applied to the nocturnal street battles fought between militant students and Paris's notoriously efficient riot police, either; it pertains equally to the more intimate moments depicting the rise and fall of friendships and love affairs.
The hero of the piece is Francois (Louis Garrel, Philippe's son, previously best known for his role in Bernardo Bertolucci's The Dreamers , a much more romantic–and sexier–look at the same events).
Wounded by the police, he receives help from his mother (Brigitte Sy, who really did give birth to Louis) and grandfather (Maurice Garrel, the director's real-life father). With the film now focusing more on his poetry than on politics, the new centre of his life is Lilie (Clotilde Hesme), a talented sculptor with solid working-class origins. Music plays a role in everyone's existence, of course, and so do drugs, and one should not forget the siren song of career. Slowly, inexorably, people who seem bonded for eternity go their separate ways.
In a sense, what happens to the protagonists of Regular Lovers happens to just about everyone, but rarely are the stakes so high. In this case, growing up doesn't just mean "getting a life". It also implies giving up on the world.