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France 2003
Directed by
Bernardo Bertolucci
115 minutes
Rated R

Reviewed by
Sharon Hurst
4 stars

The Dreamers

Synopsis: Naive American student Matthew (Michael Pitt) is studying French in Paris for a year in 1968. An ardent lover of movies he meets twins Theo (Louis Garrell) and Isabelle (Eva Green) at a cinematheque screening. When the twins’ parents go on a trip for some weeks, they invite Matthew to move in. The journey of self-discovery is sexually and emotionally demanding and will challenge each of them.

As with his controversial Last Tango in Paris, Bernardo Bertolucci again chooses Paris in a highly erotically-charged film which confronts a number of taboos. Both Bertolucci and screenwriter Gilbert Adair lived in Paris in the turbulent late 60s, which was a time when film, politics, music and philosophy converged to (falsely, as it turned out) herald sweeping social change. It was a halcyon time for all kinds of dreamers - Adair himself refers to The Dreamers as a story about three utopias: political, cinematic and sexual. The opening scenes where cinephiles protest in the streets against the sacking of Henri Langlois, founder of La Cinematheque Française, is typical of the beginning of the upheavals that swept through society at the time. The mood of the late 60s is magnificently augmented by the diverse soundtrack featuring music of Hendrix, Joplin, The Doors, Françoise Hardy and Dylan.

The film references will be a cinephile’s delight. In the scenes set in the Cinematheque clips from many classic films are used: Godard’s À Bout de Souffle, Chaplin’s City Lights, Hawks’ Scarface with one particularly wonderful scene having the new friends trying to recreate the famous dance scene from Godard’s Bande À Part..

The cast he assembles here needed to be able to handle the intimacy of what eventually becomes a highly introspective three-way interaction. Chosen from the theatre, Eva Green is stunning as Isabelle, her strange mixture of seeming sophistication masking extreme vulnerability. Louis Garrell is also a relative newcomer to film, but his broody appearance lends a wonderful air of mystery to the strange Theo. Michael Pitt brings a fine balance to Matthew, who undergoes many emotional and traumatic changes as the story progresses.

This is no film for sexual prudes as it has a goodly amount of full frontal nudity (on the contrary, with such delicious young bods who could take offence?) The sexual revelations that the characters experience take place in their isolated world at a time when the outside world is ready to ignite. It is only when they step out from their artificially-created world that their own rites of passage coincide with those of society at large. With a filmography that has established him as one of Europe leading arthouse directors, Bertolucci’s latest is no disappointment. For those of us still wistfully mooning over the idealised 60s, The Dreamers is a bittersweet reminder of a time when youth still had dreams of a world that might be.




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