|Clotilde Hesme and Louis Garrel as Lili and François.|
Is three hours too long for Philippe Garrel’s latest film, Les Amants Réguliers? Not really, since it is time well spent in the company of these two lovers, far more so than the time wasted watching most of contemporary French cinema’s excruciatingly boring attempts to treat True Love.
Garrel, who has 27 movies in the can at the age of 58, understands amorous sentiments and films them with a grace and attention to detail that most other French filmmakers no longer seem capable of.
It’s 1968. Lili (Clotilde Hesme) and François (Louis Garrel) are 20 years old. They meet at a party and don’t leave each other until a year later, when Lili takes a plane to America, leaving François behind in his garret room to give us a last, supreme lesson in elegance.
From the beginning of their love story to its tragic end, the moments shared by Lili and François are an ongoing miracle that color the whole story with a warm, gentle irreality. These two perfect lovers move through the black-and-white film like angelic heroes in a dream we have all had.
Few of us may have experienced True Love, yet when Garrel shows it to us on the screen, we recognize it in midnight walks through Paris; in the simple, unguarded words exchanged by Lili and François; in the way François looks at her; in Lili’s secrets.
Les Amants Réguliers is not just a great film on love, but also has value as a portrait of an era of hope, quickly followed by disillusionment. In France, 1968 buried the illusions of certain leftists who believed in the revolution and thought that one evening in May could change the world, or at least French society. Well before the end of
communism and the triumph of capitalism, 1968 marked the first death shudders of a leftist ideology that stood for sharing and fraternity.
François and his friend, who man the barricades in the Latin Quarter and face the police, act out this sham revolt in a theatrical scene filmed in an almost immobile long shot. These youth are dreamers, not revolutionaries. They are much better at imagining themselves heroes of 1789 than really taking up arms against their oppressors.
Their year is not 1968, that of the fake war, but 1969, the year of love, of discovering a new way to be with other people. In the big, luxurious home of a friend, a young man who is not afraid of his wealth or his friends’ dreams, François, Lili and a few others, all of them wonderful, live together intensely. They share opium and read their poetry and show their paintings to each other.
And that’s what they should be doing. They are living the truth of their age, the age of 20, and they don’t yet know cynicism, failure or fear – only grace.
© 2005 Paris Update
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