But appreciating The Dreamers has nothing to do with pushing the audience in directions they shirk from. The sex and nudity, while physically bare to the eye, come more from the standpoint of natural innocence than pornographic prowess. The added connotations towards incest have also had people bubbling at the mouth. However, if you are able to ignore all these preconceptions, The Dreamers becomes a simple, and beautifully crafted, story of three individuals who test each other and themselves for a short period of time.
Set against the 1968 student riots in Paris, The Dreamers affectionately mixes youthful exploration, love of intellect, and the way personal desires can battle versus community involvement. Matthew (Michael Pitt, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Murder by Numbers) is an American studying in Paris and obsessed with cinema. He happens to connect with a pair of siblings while at a rally who invite him to stay over while their parents are away.
Michael is Isabelle's (newcomer Eva Green) first experience being with a man outside her brother Theo (Louis Garrel), and her seemingly random reactions between vulnerability and arrogance are absolutely captivating. Delicious questions are left in the air as the plot progresses, and allow for anything to happen. Will any of the uncomfortable moments that continue force Michael into rebelling against his hosts' eccentricities? Will Michael's presence provoke Theo and/or Isabelle to venture away from their so-far comfortable nest? Will Theo's mounting cultural aggravation, and Isabelle's attraction to another man, compel him to participate in the tension he hears out his window?
The internal and external pressures play off each other as the film unfolds a personal journey that melds with finding one's place in society. Because each of the three leads is in the process of defining themselves, their tendency towards manipulation of one another is consistently fresh and compelling to watch. They serve as a superb microcosm of the angst at the time. With The Dreamers, Bertolucci shows us a great impression of Paris in 1968, combined with some aptly chosen archival moments, and then zooms in to personalize the zeitgeist that is no longer available to us.
While there are moments that are perhaps too ponderous, or even unnecessarily repetitive, the acting is strong enough to keep interest intact, and if not, the gorgeous cinematography certainly will. The Dreamers, in many respectable ways, encapsulates the sense of innocence and adventure we all wish to carry with us, for as much as it entertains and frightens.
DVD extras on this unique and disturbing film include a crew commentary (including Bertolucci and the writer and producer), a making-of documentary, a historical look at France in 1968, and -- gulp -- a music video of Pitt singing, which Bertolucci directed.
Dreaming a little dream.
Run time: 115 mins
In Theaters: Friday 10th October 2003
Box Office USA: $2.3M
Box Office Worldwide: $14.3M
Distributed by: Fox Searchlight Pictures
Production compaines: Peninsula Films
Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 61%
Fresh: 95 Rotten: 61
IMDB: 7.2 / 10
Director: Bernardo Bertolucci
Producer: Jeremy Thomas
Screenwriter: Gilbert Adair
Starring: Michael Pitt as Matthew, Eva Green as Isabelle, Louis Garrel as Theo, Anna Chancellor as Mother, Robin Renucci as Father, Jean-Pierre Kalfon as Himself, Jean-Pierre Léaud as Himself, Florian Cadiou as Patrick, Pierre Hancisse as First Buff, Valentin Merlet as Second Buff, Lola Peploe as The Usherette, Ingy Fillion as Theo's Girlfriend
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