Regular Lovers (Les Amant Reguliers) (5 stars)

(18) 184min


At last, a film by the great Philippe Garrel receives proper distribution in the UK. For years Garrel’s been loved and respected in France (that country’s top film magazine Les Cahiers du Cinéma often gives over ten pages to Garrel films). Now British viewers can find out why.

Garrel is the sort of filmmaker who follows Godard’s dictum that ‘television unites and cinema should divide’. As such this is a demanding, insular piece of work shot in low definition monochrome, which tells its story elliptically.

’68 revolutionary François (Louis Garrel, Philippe’s son) is a young man at the barricades just when it looked like France would upend the bourgeois power structure. Yet ‘68 seems a minor event next to the emotional upheaval of falling in love, and Garrel, one of the world’s great directors of tenderness, captures this emotional freefall beautifully in a series of exchanges, visual and occasionally verbal, between his regular lovers: the young poet, François and the sculptress Lilie (Clotilde Hesme).

Garrel also offers a stunning dance party sequence that suggests the end of an era, and there is a constant sense that the filmmaker isn’t just trying to tell a story. As he said of an earlier work, ‘the film consists of traces and of what goes through my head at the time I’m filming. It can only be traces and milestones.’ This is a film full of cinematic possibility and not just narrative expectation. It’s long but really is worth seeking out.

Filmhouse, Edinburgh from Fri 8-Wed 13 Sep only.

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