Bernardo Bertolucci has earned a reputation for being one of Hollywood’s most interesting filmmakers. From the now infamous Last Tango In Paris to 1900, The Last Emperor, and Stealing Beauty, Bertolucci has moved effectively from one genre to the next. Some pigeonhole him as being too attached to “controversy” but that’s really a moot point. He’s able to accurately convey whatever themes he sets out to, and with a style and sophistication lacking in 90% of directors today.
The Dreamers is his latest. It relates to us something from Bertolucci’s own life, being in the midst of the political uprisings of Paris in 1968. Based on Gilbert Adair’s novel The Holy Innocents (and scripted by Adair), The Dreamers brings us the tale of Matthew, an idealistic American traveling abroad. He just begins to soak up the culture when he meets twins Isabelle (played with a heady verve by Eva Green) and Theo (Louis Garrel). They are protesting the funding loss of the Cinémathèque Française by the government. Matthew is slowly drawn into their intoxicating world of cinema, politics, and sex. But is there a world beyond the one the siblings have made for themselves? The twins devise movie pop quizzes with sexual games as punishment (City Lights and Bande A Part are but a few titles discussed, as clips from the films interject) and all the while Paris seems to quake with dissent on the streets below.
Much has been made of The Dreamers MPAA rating. NC-17. It doesn’t get thrown around alot these days. Fox Searchlight decided to buck the trend and release the film as is to theatres. It didn’t play that long as most theatre chains won’t play NC-17 films. I find the whole thing funny as the sexual content in the film, while graphic and intense, is nothing pornographic. Yes, you see explicit closeups of both male and female genitalia and there is implied sex but the hype is much ado about nothing. It adds a sensual and intoxicating feel to the film, as these young people discover sexuality and film in their own way. (The twins parents are only seen in fleeting glances, dropping off a check before heading off to an undisclosed destination.)
The Dreamers is a romantic and beautiful look at the chrysalis that envelopes two lost souls who seem to be unable to function outside the four walls of their own design. One person tries to help dismantle those walls (Matthew) but it seems that he just adds more bricks. All three actors provide compelling performances and help to construct a very believable environment. You can practically smell the wine and cigarettes oozing off the screen. This is one of the very best movies in a long time.