They don’t make films like "Regular Lovers" anymore, as much for practical reasons as anything else â€” at three hours, in black and white and in French, it’s going to have a hell of a time finding a US distributor. But how delicious to be huddled in an overly air-conditioned, sparsely populated theater watching it luxuriously unspool in a Friday afternoon! An unabashed throwback to the Nouvelle Vague and a time when cinema was art, dammit, Philippe Garrel‘s "Regular Lovers" is also a direct reply to Bernardo Bertolucci‘s "The Dreamers" (at one point, several of the characters even discuss "Before the Revolution," and one turns toward the camera and repeats his name slowly to herself, as if tasting it: "Ber-NAR-doâ€¦Ber-to-LU-cciâ€¦"), centered, as is that film, around the 1968 Paris riots. "Regular Lovers" also stars the director’s son Louis Garrel, who played Theo in "The Dreamers" and here is Francois, a sort of gorgeous uber-Gallic icon, a tousle-haired and brooding poet in a disheveled suit.
While "The Dreamers" whirled along parallel to the heady days leading up to the riots, "Regular Lovers" starts off in the midst of them, following a group of friends through streets set afire and into the days after, when personal lives start eclipsing political idealism. Through meandering episodes, we follow Francois and various others as they smoke hash, discuss politics, eye each other at parties, fall in love, smoke opium, put on The Kinks and dance ecstatically. They’re young and various forms of artists; they have terribly serious discussions. And eventually, everyone starts drifting separate ways.
When, at the end of "The Dreamers" Michael Pitt‘s character pleads with the others to not go out into the streets to join the rioters, saying that that is not their way, it was startling â€” Bertolucci, that old firebrand, looks back and come up with a sort of renunciation? Garrel’s revelations are less dramatic; he surveys his youth and sees that these children who were so certain they would bring about momentous change were merely human, nothing more. Hated the posturing ending, but how else to close a film that in its nature should really ramble on forever? "Regular Lovers" is a portrait of an era, but it’s also an attempt to capture that moment when you first think that you’re not so young anymore. And no true poet icon should ever have to face that realization.
"Regular Lovers" currently has no US distributor.