Cinema/history: Philippe Garrel, Bernardo Bertolucci and May 1968

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Leonard, Michael
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Film and Screen Media, University College Cork
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This article compares the engagement with the history of May 1968 in Philippe Garrel’s Les Amants réguliers/Regular Lovers (2005)and Bernardo Bertolucci’s The Dreamers (2004). Through a close study of both films, it demonstrates how Garrel finds a more nuanced and transformative aesthetic than Bertolucci in representing this defining moment in modern French culture and politics. The films share a number of aspects; most notably, they draw upon the history of cinema itself in recalling this period, an approach that can be related to Godard’s project in Histoire(s) du Cinéma (1988-1998). However, their differing approaches to cinematographic citation (metonymic in the case of Bertolucci, and metaphoric in the case of Garrel) have significant implications for the temporal dynamics of each film. The article argues that Bertolucci’s method is intrinsically conservative—reactionary, even—implying an historical linearity that reinforces the “pastness” of May, its significance as a piece of “heritage” rather than part of an ongoing historical process, or dialectic. Garrel’s practice of citation, by contrast, generates a more radical, heterochronous form that constitutes a testimony to May 1968 by evoking its continued presence. In the course of its discussion, the article also reflects on the relationship between Les Amants réguliers and the nouvelle vague, exploring in particular the relations between this film and Jacques Rivette’s Paris nous appartient (1961).
Metonymy in film
Leonard, M. (2011) 'Cinema/history: Philippe Garrel, Bernardo Bertolucci and May 1968', Alphaville: Journal of Film and Screen Media, 1 (Summer 2011).
© 2011, The Author(s)