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  •  REVIEW: THE DREAMERS

    The Dreamers

    Dream a little dream of oui

    At its best, "The Dreamers" is an intense, and plenty erotic, exploration of sexuality among an American student and two French siblings, but it's weighted down by a self-congratulatory obsession with film history.

    By JOSHUA TANZER
    Offoffoff.com

    "The Dreamers" is a good movie in an annoying movie's clothing.

      
    THE DREAMERS
    Directed by: Bernardo Bertolucci.
    Written by: Gilbert Adair.
    Cast: Michael Pitt, Louis Garrel, Eva Green, Robin Renucci, Anna Chancellor.
    In English and French with English subtitles.

    Related links: Official site
    In fact, it's a good movie about annoying people who spend a good amount of time getting out of their annoying clothing. It's set against the backdrop of Paris in the tumultuous year 1968, but our threesome spend most of their time hiding from the politics of the streets, carnally cocooned in an affluent apartment while the parents are away.

    The only part that these three — an American exchange student and the brother-sister twins who live in the apartment — take in the radical protests in the street is when their favorite cinema is being shut down. There the American, Matthew — played by Michael Pitt ("Dawson's Creek") with boyishly handsome Leonarda DiCaprio-type looks — meets the fetching Isabelle as she chains herself to the Cinˇmath¸que Fran¨aise gates.


      
    Bertolucci has made a solipsistic indulgence of a movie on the high-minded theme of Oh How The Great Films Do Enrich Our Lives. If you could skim away all the film-studies crud, you'd have a more intense little film about sexual adventure.  

      
    Perhaps rushing to the gates of a movie theater is not exactly what the French mean when they cry, "To the barricades!" but for our purposes it will do. Boy meets girl, and girl takes boy back to meet mom, dad and her twin brother. Dad is a professor and Isabelle and Theo have been raised as aspiring intellectuals. To that end, they read Marx and Mao, but mostly they see a lot of movies and drone on about them. If you actually met people like this you'd hate them.

    Isabelle and Theo — who sleep en dˇshabille in each other's arms — have a little "truth or dare" game they play with each other. They act out scenes from early film classics and he who fails to name that movie has to do the other's sexual bidding. Soon Matthew — who happens to know his movie history pretty well too, though, being American, he trails the other two in Marxist theory and sexual liberation — is sucked into their twisted little world. The stakes — intellectual, sexual, cinematic — rise steadily as the parents stay away and the precocious adolescents play.

    The film is so lost in its own film-history vortex that it often seems like that worst kind of art movie — the film made just to give film-studies Ph.D.'s something to prattle about in future decades. Isabelle introduces herself early in the film by announcing (preposterously), "I was born in 1959 on the Champs Elysˇes, and my first words were 'New York Herald Tribune!' " To make sure we get the in-reference, a scene of Jean Seberg shouting "New York Herald Tribune" from Jean-Luc Godard's "Breathless" is spliced in — the first of many cutaways that are supposed to tickle our movie-buff bone.

      The Dreamers
    What revered Italian director Bernardo Bertolucci has made is a solipsistic, pseudo-intellectual indulgence of a movie on the supposedly high-minded theme of Oh How The Great Films Do Enrich Our Lives. It comes across as the kind of film you make if the only thing you know in the world is film.

    And yet, if you could skim away all the gratuitous film-studies crud, you'd have a smaller but more intense little film about sexual adventure and self-discovery. Here are three nubile young people together behind closed doors in a rule-free wonderland, with only their youthful hormones and their sense of adventure to guide them. What will they do next, you're constantly asking yourself. What won't they do? The movie is a kissing cousin not to "Breathless" so much as that other screen classic "9-1/2 Weeks."


      
    Here are three nubile young people together behind closed doors in a rule-free wonderland, with only their youthful hormones and their sense of adventure to guide them. What will they do next, you're constantly asking yourself. What won't they do?  

      
    And I say that with some admiration. In parts, "The Dreamers" is actually an absorbing — and extremely sexy — exploration of human nature. From the beginning, since we're talking about three people and two of them are siblings (not to mention French!), we know our boundaries are being tested. What do people do in this unconventional situation when human urges propel them toward what might seem wrong or sometimes even humiliating? Once you've crossed a certain line, do you go further? And then, how far is too far — when will basic emotions like possessiveness and regret get in the way of simple, joyous libertinism? Can three people be in love and stay that way? It's an intense little experiment, set in a historical moment when society's traditional ideas were all open to question.

    In the final minutes, Bertolucci makes an effort to give the film some meaning beyond sex and movies by returning our threesome to the streets they left at the beginning of the film. But that's a little bit tacked-on — this isn't really a movie about the political turmoil of the '60s. It is — charitably — about sexuality and freedom, or — uncharitably — about how hip it is to be an artsy-fartsy European director on the Godard-Truffaut list.

    FEBRUARY 4, 2004
    OFFOFFOFF.COM • THE GUIDE TO ALTERNATIVE NEW YORK


    Reader comments on The Dreamers:

  • You pretencious son of a bitch   from Pepe, Feb 9, 2004
  • Re: You pretencious son of a bitch   from , Feb 23, 2004
  • use spellcheck before you insult the reviewers   from theo (no relation), May 25, 2005
  • Re: You pretencious son of a bitch   from Carmel, Jun 7, 2006
  • Re: You pretencious son of a bitch   from , Jan 8, 2007
  • Re: You pretencious son of a bitch   from Joe, Mar 19, 2007
  • Re: You pretencious son of a bitch   from Joe, Mar 19, 2007
  • cdfiev   from kozan, Nov 24, 2004
  • dreamers   from elena, Jan 12, 2005
  • Re: dreamers   from Angel, Apr 2, 2005
  • TRUE   from SUZAN, Feb 15, 2005
  • [no subject]   from KittyKatMeowz, Jun 19, 2005
  • [no subject]   from abc, Sep 6, 2005
  • Bisexualism   from Bethany, Feb 22, 2006
  • Re: Bisexualism   from apaches, Feb 25, 2006
  • hi   from rene ramirez, Mar 11, 2009
  • Love   from mario ciaparrone, May 29, 2010

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