Monday, February 2, 2009

Les Amants réguliers

Playing this month at Cinémathèque Busan as part of a series of French films, Philippe Garrel's Les Amants réguliers (2005) is a languourously plotted, stunningly beautiful film--masterfully lit by William Lubtchansky, who uses hard, contrasty lighting--about a group of young people who live through the events of May '68 and their aftermath. The film has a loose, episodic structure, and it moves at a deliberately slow pace even before the main character, François (Louis Garrel), starts smoking opium. But Garrel's singular talents have less to do with classical storytelling than his ability to conjure up mysterious, sublime moments of pure cinema. To cite just one example, the first time we see François smoking opium, about half-way through the film, Garrel flashes back to a scene of protesters being arrested during the May demonstrations--an event François wasn't present for. The protesters are lined up against a wall in the background on the left side of the frame, and in the middle ground in the center of the image, a plain clothed police officer stands with his back to the camera. Garrel returns to François, who's passed out, and then cuts back to the arrest. The plain clothed police officer turns to face the camera, and instructs two uniformed cops on the left side of the frame to take away the protesters. The plot is mainly a baggy framework to hold together a series of episodes, and Garrel's painterly long takes often have the effect of suspending narrative entirely.

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