March 11, 2004

The Dreamers

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Bernando Bertolucci has directed many critical successes over his long career, including Last Tango in Paris and The Last Emperor. However, in his latest film, The Dreamers, Bertolucci has missed the mark. Bertolucci tries to over-indulge in his filmmaking and, as a result, loses the audience in the confusing plot. The movie tells the story of an American student and film buff, Matthew (Michael Pitt), who finds himself in Paris during 1968. During his stay, Matthew meets twins and fellow film enthusiasts Isabelle (Eva Green) and Theo (Louis Garrel), and is invited to stay with them. As the film progresses, Matthew, Isabelle, and Theo live together and simultaneously discuss film and life. And, oh yeah, they have a lot of sex. I mean A LOT. All of this happens against the backdrop of the 1968 student protests that actually came close to overthrowing the government of France.

As the three lovers concentrate on philosophy, lovemaking, and cinema, they become more and more distant from the real world of student movements and protests that occurs right outside their window. Matthew finally realizes he must make a choice between becoming an active participant in the rapidly changing political environment, or remaining in the pleasure garden of Isabelle and Theo.

The biggest disappointment in this film is that all the aspects that make a great movie are present; Bertolucci just never manages to connect them. Bertolucci seems to be exploring several themes, including a tribute to cinema, Matthew’s growth into adulthood, and a little political philosophy. However, he never spends enough time on any theme to fully develop it. Instead, the film jumps around from idea to idea with no coherence. Furthermore, the audience is continually distracted by Bertolucci’s obsession with erotica, which seems to provide more shock value than substance.

While this film may not be Bertolucci’s best, the director still has a great eye for acting. The film is carried on the backs of Pitt, Green, and Garrel. Bertolucci himself still manages to showcase his skill as a storyteller. One of the most enjoyable aspects of the film is Bertolucci’s integration of old classic film clips into the movie as the characters discuss their love of cinema. Similarly, the cinematography reflects not only the tumultuous spring of 1968, but also Matthew’s indulgence into the world of pleasure. Not many directors can film sensuality with such deft tact.

While Bertolucci presents many interesting ideas in his film, he never manages to reach the viewer. None of the conflicts are resolved, nor any of the themes explored enough for the audience to really understand what Bertolucci is trying to convey. Just like Matthew, at the conclusion of the film, the viewer walks away from The Dreamers lost and confused from an abundance of unexplained questions and an overload of sex.

Archived article by Mark Rice