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Twenty-year-old poet François (Louis Garrel) evades national military service and mans the barricades when riots paralyze Paris in May 1968. But the revolution fails to materialize, and he falls into a life of opium-fueled dissipation as a permanent houseguest of his wealthy friend Antoine (Julien Lucas). When he reconnects with Lilie (Clotilde Hesme), a girl he first spotted during the chaos of the riots, they pledge to love each other for the rest of their lives-a vow that restless, ambitious Lilie may interpret differently than her dreamy lover. Director Philippe Garrel's semi-autobiographical, low-key epic muses on the personal and the political-and the era when they were most vividly one and the same. In casting his son Louis, Garrel underlines his connection to that era and calls up another meditation on the times, Bernardo Bertolucci's The Dreamers (2003), which also starred Louis. Philippe Garrel himself was twenty in 1968, filming the riots from the front lines. His re-creation of those events is a stunning, nearly wordless half-hour sequence of burning cars, chaotic battles, and police pursuits. No less impressive is his deconstruction of May 1968's hangover and the retreat of disillusioned youth into sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll. Cinematographer William Lubtchansky's incandescent black-and-white images create a verité feel, and the mise-en-scène immediately brings to mind classic films of the sixties and seventies, notably Jean Eustache's The Mother and the Whore. But Garrel's perspective is unique, as he eschews conventional drama and looks back on the era not with nostalgia, but with melancholy and tragic romanticism.

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