Put it this way: if I’d been 20 in Paris during the ’68 protests, raising hell and barricades, lounging with belles filles to Nico and the Kinks, writing soulful poetry about the Void, and smoking opium with a millionaire heir, I’d have made a three-hour waking dream about it, too.
Philippe Garrel’s 2005 opus, Regular Lovers, finally sees a release this month, and (though not strictly autobiographical) it’s wrought with the tenderness of experience and with an unskeptical fidelity to its idealistic characters. Evenly divided between the promise of ’68 and the creeping comedown of ’69, the film drifts as a double romance: the intoxication of revolution and the world-creating confidences of young love. Louis Garrel, the director’s son, who brooded through Bernardo Bertolucci’s earnestly smutty take on the period, The Dreamers, stars as a thoughtful well-spoken youth who takes to the streets, hangs out with politically like-minded friends, and shyly courts a sculptress in a seemingly deserted city.
The nostalgia of Regular Lovers is inseparable from its pooling and blanching black-and-white cinematography, somehow both sensual and austere, nowhere more spectacularly than in the Night of the Barricades that defines the movie’s first half. One can say the same of the movie’s conflicted engagement of the audience: stubbornly rooted in memory, it resists allowing us to surrender completely until the very end (and not as one might expect). A generational work with Garrel’s signature difficulty, and one that lets its characters’ pretensions stand naked, it takes some acclimatizing.