Matthew (Michael Pitt) is a young American student visiting Paris in 1968. When he meets Isabelle (Eva Green) and her brother Theo (Louis Garrel), who are involved in a protest demonstration at the Cinematheque, they invite him to stay while their parents are on holiday. Here they make their own rules, as they experiment with their emotions and sexuality, while playing a series of increasingly demanding mind games.
Review by Louise Keller:
Burning with the idealistic passions of the late sixties when politics and morals were jolted from their comfort zones, The Dreamers is an intense and erotic journey of self-discovery. Director Bernardo Bertolucci, a self-confessed Francophile, explores the spirit of the moment through the three free-spirited central characters, who push all boundaries - from political to sexual. Set in Paris, the film is complex and intense, compounded by its effective use of cinematic references.
Inspired by Gilbert Adair's 1988 novel The Holy Innocents, the mainstay of the film is passion. With the evolution of the Nouvelle Vague and La Cinematheque Francaise, this was a time when people were as passionate about cinema as they may be today about sport. Somehow the world was a different place, and Bertolucci captures the mood beautifully. The streets of Paris are full of ardently protesting students, demonstrating their beliefs, wearing fearlessness as the badge of youth.
Our journey takes place through Michael Pitt's Matthew, who has come to Paris to satisfy his passion for cinema. He sits as close as he can to the big screen, wanting to see (and absorb) the images first before their power dissipates row by row. But he feels like an outsider, and it's not until he meets Eva Green's pink-Sobranie-smoking wild-child Isabelle, who pretends she has chained herself to the Cinematheque gates, that at last he feels as though he has met 'some real Parisians'. He is immediately drawn to Isabelle and her twin Theo (Leon Garrel), but has no idea where the relationship will lead. There's a particular sense of innocence about the happiness that he feels, just being in their presence.
Isabelle and Theo play with Matthew as if he were a toy: life is re-enacted through reference to old movies and old stars - Seberg, Garbo, Astaire, Dietrich. There's a lively debate about who was greater - Chaplin or Keaton. They play 'name the film' or pay the forfeit. Matthew is initially shocked when Theo's forfeit is to masturbate in front of them. They converse about idealism, literature, cinema and cosmic harmony. The stakes become higher, and Matthew becomes increasingly fascinated by the relationship between Isabelle and Theo. Then sex becomes the focus as the three lock themselves in the house, totally isolated from the protests in the street outside, and engross themselves in their own fantasies. The boundaries are stretched as they experiment with how far they can go.
Nudity becomes the norm, and we are there for the exploration as the ménage a trios sleep together, bathe together and intoxicatingly become intertwined in each other's lives. Naked breasts, erect penises, pubic hair may be shown in close up, but the nudity never feels gratuitous.
Exceptional performances from the three leads, with Michael Pitt's haunting features remaining with us. From his first memorable performance in Hedwig and the Angry Inch, his choice of roles remains edgy. With the classic good looks of Leonardo di Caprio, Pitt's features can easily become sullen and mysterious: he is fascinating to watch.
The Dreamers is an interesting work, cinematically beautiful and often filled with erotic, thought provoking messages. I like the way music is used throughout, but it's Edith Piaf's Je Ne Regrette Rien that leaves us with the taste of salt in our mouth.
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DREAMERS, THE (R)
(UK / France / Italy / USA)
CAST: Michael Pitt, Louis Garrel, Eva Green, Robin Renucci, Anna Chancellor
PRODUCER: Jeremy Thomas
DIRECTOR: Bernardo Bertolucci
SCRIPT: Gilbert Adair
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Fabio Cianchetti
EDITOR: Jacopo Quadri
MUSIC: (non original) Jean Constantin, John Densmor, Antoine Duhamel, Bob Dylan, Jerry Garcia, Mickey Hart, Jimi Hendrix, Bill Kreutzmann, Robby Krieger, Ray Manzarek, Steve Miller, Jim Morrison, Michel Polnareff, Martial Solal, Charles Trenet
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Jean Rabasse
RUNNING TIME: 115 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Fox
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: April 29, 2004
VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Fox Entertainment
VIDEO RELEASE: October 20, 2004