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"The Dreamers"

Directed by Bernardo Bertulucci ("The Last Emperor").
Written by Gilbert Adair.
Starring Michael Pitt, Louis Garrel and Eva Green. 
Release Year:  2003 
Review Date:  2/16/04 


I haven’t checked my records to be sure about this, but I’m 99% positive that I have never reviewed a film rated NC-17 before “The Dreamers.”  As such, this is a watershed moment.  What kind of watershed moment is up to you.

“The Dreamers” is the story of an American named Matthew (Michael Pitt) hangin’ out in Paris in 1968, amidst the backdrop of a city on the verge of revolt.  Revolt over what, I’m not exactly sure, although it seemed like a lot of it had to do with movies, or freedom of speech, or the fact that this American’s new best friends, French twins Theo (Louis Garrel) and Isi (Eva Green), are doing a lot of nude frolicking at their parents’ house.  The friends mesh quickly, thanks to their shared love of films made in the 30s and 40s, reading books, visiting the Louvre and...taking lots of baths together.  Oh, and did I mention that the brother and sister like to make bets where when someone loses, one of them has to masturbate in front of the other?

One of the posters for “The Dreamers” touted a reviewer’s comment that should have summed up the film for me:  “Pure Bertolucci.”  So, I had to check to see just what “pure Bertolucci” might mean.  The film is directed by Bernardo Bertolucci, who directed the fantastic epic “The Last Emperor.”  He also directed “Last Tango in Paris”, which I have not seen but have certainly heard of due to its ratings troubles back in the 70s.  He has made many other films, but I have not seen them; he also directed “1900”, which I’ve heard of but not seen.  So, all I could go off of was my experience with “The Last Emperor”, and there isn’t a single thing about that film that relates to “The Dreamers”, from its scope, to its sexuality, to its casting.  In fact, I think I need to find out why I’m the only one in the dark about a comment like “pure Bertolucci” when nothing could be more vague.  Now, if this was Almodovar, and the comment was “pure Almodovar”, then we can have a conversation; 90% of his films are classics and about sexuality, comedy and relationships.  Or, maybe “pure Schwarzenegger.”  That paints a picture for sure.  But “pure Bertolucci”???

Anyway, enough of that rant.  “The Dreamers” hooked me in due to its characters’ love of the cinema; like my buddy Gordon and I, 75% of what we say came from either “Die Hard”, “Top Gun”, “I’m Gonna Git You Sucka” (“Can ya, can ya just pour it in my hand...”) or “Mission: Impossible” (“Man down, down”), so I love it when film characters express themselves by quoting lines from films, or reenacting scenes from their favorite films, and on and on.  And, even a true film geek couldn’t pull out all of the film trivia that is recited in “The Dreamers”; I would bet even Tarantino-philes who know that his production company is called A Band Apart Films have never seen “Bande a part”, a French film from 1964.  Or a brief but interesting conversation on Buster Keaton versus Charlie Chaplin as actors and comedians...there’s some rich stuff here if you love the movies.

You should also check out this film if you are cool with lots of nudity.  I hadn’t read any reviews of this flick coming in, and that was a good move, since I didn’t prepare myself for an extended sequence with the threesome just kind of, you know, hangin’ out in the kitchen one day.  Unlike those pesky sex scenes by American auteurs, Bertolucci (so “pure”) does a great job handling the awkward sexuality of these kids, while still making these sequences feel natural and sometimes pretty frisky.  I don’t think the film deserves NC-17 status, but I’m just another guy in the audience.

The film wants to address issues that don’t mix well with what’s happening with those three kids at the house, and I felt there were some missed opportunities with the parents of Theo and Isi in a couple of places.  The political environment and the fascist-like police state that are depicted at various intervals were not incorporated well; I’m sure, in the book on which “The Dreamers” is based, that all is forgiven in the longer written format, but here it just feels like lip service.  Otherwise, “The Dreamers” is a solid film that takes a movie lover like me on its ride and lets go when the lights come up.

Rating:  $9.50 Show


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
© 1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09