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fine film-making overcomes flaws
Roland E. Zwick3 October 2004
'The Dreamers' is Bernardo Bertolucci's bizarre and fascinating (if not altogether successful) distillation of the radical '60's mentality. Since the film is set in Paris in 1968, the radicalism naturally takes the form of perverted sexuality and extreme cinephilia. Leave it to the French to be exploring l'amour in all its myriad possibilities!

In terms of plotting, 'The Dreamers' is much like an incestuous version of Truffaut's menage a trois classic 'Jules and Jim,' with the new film's subject matter as shocking today as was the earlier film's in its own time. Time and culture sure do march on, and it always seems to be the French leading the way. In 'The Dreamers,' Isabelle (Eva Green) and Theo (Louis Garrel) are twins who have developed a rather 'unnatural' attraction to one another, becoming 'one' in virtually every way imaginable - physically, spiritually, psychically. Matthew (Michael Pitt, who looks for all the world like Leonardo Di Caprio) is the young American in Paris whom they pull into their strange little world of sexual intrigue and emotional games. Matthew is a product of his time, a young man who is not very experienced in the ways of the world but who is willing to partake in the moral relativism that is permeating the culture. Thus, he becomes the perfect candidate for Isabelle and Theo to work their magic on. Their power of attraction proves overwhelming and irresistible for Matthew, for they are both exotically beautiful creatures, seemingly in tune with the trendy radicalism swirling around them. Yet, Mathew eventually discovers that they are really only passive observers paying little but lip service to the cause, too obsessed with their own twisted relationship to actually step out and participate in those grand social movements they talk so freely about. Isabelle and Theo are 'radicals' to be sure, yet their radicalism seems to be channeled in a self-destructive, ultimately futile direction. Only over time does Matthew awaken to this realization.

Due to the extremely sensitive nature of the subject matter, Bertolucci often seems more interested in shocking than enlightening us. Isabelle, Theo and Matthew are so insulated and cut off from the outside world that the points Bertolucci seemingly wants to make about the times - as reflected in protesters marching in the streets, the references to Vietnam, Mao and Jimmy Hendrix - feel tacked on and superfluous, not particularly integral to the film as a whole. He is never quite able to bring these background elements and the foreground story together in any meaningful way. What Bertolucci does capture well is the obsessive love the French have always had for the cinema as both entertainment and art form. His characters live, breathe and think films, often acting out favorite scenes while the director intercuts snippets from the movies themselves. The beautiful thing about the French is that they have always had such an eclectic taste in film, embracing both American studio and French New Wave products with equal passion. And this artistic open-mindedness Bertolucci captures with gleeful abandon. The film, in many ways, becomes an homage to Chaplin and Keaton, Astaire and Rogers, Samuel Fuller, Truffaut, Godard, Greta Garbo and many other icons of movie history.

'The Dreamers' doesn't entirely hold together and the sum of its parts is better than the whole. Still, the acting is excellent and Bertolucci has lost none of his skills as a director, making each beautifully composed shot stand for something - a real treat for audiences bored to tears by the kind of by-the-numbers film-making we get so often today. Bertolucci is a true film artist and it is a joy just to sit and watch what he does with his actors and his camera, like a master painter working wonders with his canvas.

As for the much-vaunted sexual content of the film (it is rated NC-17), certainly those who are easily offended by nudity and provocative sexual themes had best avoid subjecting themselves to this film. Those, however, with a more open mind will find little that is overtly offensive about what is shown here. In fact, if Isabelle and Theo weren't brother and sister, there would be little controversy at all generated by the film. My suspicion is that Bertolucci and writer Gilbert Adair made their film about incest because an ordinary love triangle would have seemed just too commonplace in this day and age to serve as a successful plot device for a film whose very theme centers around radicalism. They really needed to shake the audience up and this was as effective a way as any to do that. Whether it repels more people than it compels is something only time will tell.

As it is, 'The Dreamers' is not an entirely successful film, but those impressed by fine film-making had best not pass it up.
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Sex, Cinema, Politics - A True Molotov Cocktail
Radu Olievschi20 July 2004
The decor for The Dreamers, Bertolucci's sensual and narcotic film is represented by effervescent moments that took place in Paris in 1968. In the same manner in which the house inhabited by the three main protagonists represents a character, so do the Parisian streets, with their trepidation and demonstrations. Contrary to other films directed by this director - who has promised much and delivered even more throughout his career - The Dreamers opens in a fast-paced and provocative manner. The director establishes the cinematic convention precisely, eloquently, and elegantly. It becomes clear that the film deals with furious and beautiful young people who live through the films they devour. In the first five minutes, the heroine of the picture (played impeccably by Eva Green, a theatre actress reminiscent of Isabella Rossellini) announces that she was born in 1959. Logically, it is impossible, seeing that the year is 1968 and she seems to be at least 19 years old. Therefore, she explains further: 1959, Champs-Elysee, where she yelled "New York Herald Tribune!" Suddenly the film cuts to a scene from the classic Breathless (A bout de soufflé) by Godard, where Belmondo's feminine partner sells American newspapers on Champs-Elysee. Consequently, Bertolucci's feminine character believes that she has not been alive until seeing the afore-mentioned film, considered by many the beginning of the New Wave. The idea of interposing images and references to classic films is augmented in The Dreamers. It becomes a means of communication between the characters and in fact it ignites the entire "action" of the film.

As in The Last Tango in Paris or Stealing Beauty, sex and sensuality also represent means of expression on which the director relies heavily. Yet The Dreamers rejects the desperation of The Last Tango through a seductive irreverence that indeed characterizes the so-called "enfants terrible" of 1968 Paris. It should be noted that The Dreamers contains various sexual and nude scenes, but that these are by no means as shocking as the sex scenes in The Last Tango were, when that film was released in the 1960s. Since then, video and Internet pornography have occurred and shocking audiences through nudity has become something of a moot point. It is only the MPAA that hasn't grown up. It gave The Dreamers basically the same rating that The Last Tango got, 30 years ago.

Undoubtedly, the angles of the shots in The Dreamers are what impresses the most. As in other films by Bertolucci, practically every shot could be cut out and studied hours at an end for its elegance. The three main characters (all played beyond reproach) live their menage-a-trois through concrete gestures and attitudes, as well as through emotions that are suggested by the sublime cinematography.

The ending of the film, considered by some critics a weak point, is in fact quite accomplished. American viewers (including some critics) are used to American films, in which the build-up leading to the climax is essentially dynamic, suspenseful or tragic. But the European cinema is different. It often shows how feelings are condensed in a quiet but explosive mixture. This description fits The Dreamers like a glove.

Finally, a note for film buffs. In the initial scenes, at the demonstration in front of the Cinematheque, Bertolucci used news reel footage from the '60s with Jean-Pierre Leaud si Jean-Pierre Kalfon (known actors of the New Wave). They are seen giving speeches and throwing paper leaflets to the crowd. In 2003, when shooting the film, Bertolucci got Leaud and Kalfon, now aged, to "reenact" the images from the news reels. The end result is a mixture of new and old images, the former in color, the latter black and white. It is such tricks that Bertolucci uses throughout this nostalgic film that celebrates a certain period, during which the young generation had more meaningful things to fight than computer-simulated monsters.
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All dreamers must eventually wake up
cs10010 March 2004
My rating: 6/10

There are two types of dreamers in `The Dreamers': the three main characters, who create their own interior world and prefer to view the outside world by watching classic 1930s cinema; and the socialist street revolutionaries of riot-torn 1968 Paris, who attempt to overthrow the political and economic power structure. `The Dreamers' focuses more on the former than the latter, and Bernardo Bertolucci is careful to leave his film open to interpretation, but ultimately the dream world of the three main characters is shattered by the realities of life. The film ends before resolving the outcome of the second set of dreamers, but we all know our history. Some may think it a shame that the dreamers fail, but others like myself will view it as something that has to happen, if the dream is unrealistic and unsustainable.

The relationship between the three main characters is unlike anything that I've ever seen portrayed on film. The twins, Isabelle and Theo, are almost as close to each other in young adulthood as they were during the nine months they spent together in their mother's womb. Matthew, a U.S. student studying abroad in Paris, inserts himself into the middle, and when he receives early indications that portend the depth of the relationship between the twins, he does not run away. To me, this required too much suspension of disbelief, but I'm certainly aware that others have different proclivities. If Bertolucci's intent was to show a high degree of separation between his three dreamers and the rest of society, he certainly succeeded.

The three dreamers have some, but ultimately too little, awareness of their separation from reality and the unsustainable nature of the world they create. While sympathizing with the revolutionaries in the street, they actually are the ultimate materialistic consumers: they produce nothing that they consume (neither food nor art), and when the money their parents provide runs out, and they've drained most of the wine cellar, the harsh realities of life set in. Rooting through trash heaps isn't the answer, and the choices that they leave themselves in the end (self-annihilation or nihilism), I believe, show just how flawed their ideal world is. My interpretation is that this lesson also applies to the other set of dreamers, the street revolutionaries, but those who even today sympathize with the views of those revolutionaries will reject this interpretation.

`The Dreamers' is very voyeuristic, and Bertolucci puts his three leads through some incredibly intimate moments. All three leads are quite good, with Eva Green in particular deserving special notice for a completely uninhibited performance (at least the two male leads had each other's example to follow). It's hard to come up with an accurate overall rating for this film, because I think there will be a widespread variance in how different people react to both the storyline and the images. Read the reviews carefully, and if it sounds like something that interests and won't shock you, then give it a try. My middle-of-the-road rating is mainly due to my not being terribly interested in the type of relationship formed by the three main characters.
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Cinema, sex, politics, and Bertolucci...
fdpedro23 July 2004
Warning: Spoilers
Some people think Bernardo Bertolucci could be placed among Italy's other great directors such as Fellini, Leone, or DeSica. But there are still people out there who never forgave him from LITTLE BUDDHA, or that thought LAST TANGO IN Paris was overrated soft-core porn. His latest film, THE DREAMERS, might be misunderstood as a film about the 1968 student riots in Paris. It's not. Instead, it uses 1968 Paris as a backdrop for the triangular relationship of a naïve American with a pair of incestuous French twins.

Young and innocent Matthew (Michael Pitt) just arrived in Paris from San Diego in order to study the French language, but finds himself attending to the Cinematheque Francais instead. 'Only the French would build a movie theater in a palace,' he states in his narration. As he spends his vacation inside screening room with chain-smoking New Wave pioneers, the student riots start breaking out and he ends up meeting twins Isabelle (Eva Green) and Theo (Louis Garrel), who both are very similar to Matthew except that they are… hmmm… very French. After engaging interesting conversations that range from Nicholas Roeg to rock n' roll, they all start bounding up as friends and the twins invite him over to their apartment for dinner.

Theo and Isabelle's apartment consists of the stereotypical French family: They all smoke like chimneys and mom and dad (Anna Chancellor and Robin Renucci) are poets who love to talk about art and philosophy. When Matthew learns the parents are leaving for a month and that he can stay with the twins in the apartment for all this time, he finds himself in heaven. But things are far from heaven. He soon sees Isabelle and Theo have an unhealthy closure: They bathe together, sleep together, and masturbate in front of each other. Is there something going on or are they just too European?

At first Matthew is disgusted by their behavior, but the sexual tension between him and Isabelle (and to some extent, Theo) soon wins over. This is Bertolucci we're talking about, after all! The apartment eventually becomes one filthy, inhabitable place and the kids can barely survive. They run out of food, money, and are close enough to fall asleep in a bathtub and wake up dipped in menstrual blood. You would expect the story could take a LORD OF THE FLIES approach of turning the twins into psychopath savages, but screenwriter Gilbert Adair (who based the movie upon his novel) gives us a much more interesting story to watch.

These kids are, like many of us, movie buffs and spend their time challenging each other on identifying film references. The punishment for not knowing how the famous assassination scene in SCARFACE turns out to be sexual interplay between the characters. Is that a punishment? The discussions in the apartment cover sex, cinema, music, and politics. So you have the kids discussing who is funnier: Keaton of Chaplin? Who plays the guitar better: Hendrix or Clapton? Is the Vietnam War right? But my favorite is weather or not Maoism is the way to go. Theo describes Maoism as an epic movie with thousands of idealistic thinkers carrying their little red books and revolting. But Matthew adds that it would not be a very engaging epic since everyone carrying the little red book would speak the same dialogue, wear the same clothes, have the same characteristics. They wouldn't be characters, they would be extras. It's in moments like these where the actors really shine. Eva Green in particular is a true charming revelation and it's a shame Fernando Meirelles wasn't able to cast her in THE CONSTANT GARDENER like he wanted to.

Bertolucci isolates the characters from the events happening in the streets as much as he can, keeping the camera (for most of the time) inside the apartment. It's not enough to call the film a Dogma 95 sell-out, but it's really engaging and quite different from what you would expect from the director of THE LAST EMPEROR. The movie is called THE DREAMERS because the kids live inside their little mystical cocoon isolated from life and not doing anything about the problems they discuss. Matthew is the only one who seems to realize how immature it all is and how sick the incestuous relation between Theo and Isabelle makes him feel, unlike the usual 'Europeans are way cooler than Americans' stereotype you would expect from these cultural clash topics. Once the violent revolts start kicking in and the kids' orgy cocoon is shattered by the stone breaking the window, they eventually join the riots. But that is when Matthew finally realizes he will never convince the twins to change their nature.

The film was rated NC-17 in America by the MPAA. So it's okay to show Jesus Christ being slowly killed for two-hours, but a… gasp… a penis is truly outrageous! The NC-17 rating truly killed the film from getting any kind of attention it deserved since Americans still confuse it with pornographic material. We all know that rating systems across the world are different. In America, sex is seen as a more serious taboo than violence while 14 year olds can see this film in Italy and the French gave it a -12 rating. It's not only sex however, the French slasher film HAUTE TENSION was recently given the NC-17 tag also, and for violence. While I know the MPAA will never change their ways, I really think it's time they grew up and decide to create a new rating in-between R and NC-17 showing the this film is intended for adults only. Similar to what they did when RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK came out. America really needs a complete ratings make-over and the MPAA should really think of replacing their team with people who actually know right from wrong. Otherwise, brilliant films like these will keep getting overlooked in the future.

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A romantic confession of a great filmmaker
theachilles1 August 2004
Paris, May 1968. Revolution breaks out and the world seems to be in a critical turning point, but inside the four walls of an apartment, three youngsters experience their very own revolution.

Yes, it's true. In the year 2004, one of the best cinematic experiences is offered by Bertolucci. Many are those who'd thought that he had nothing more to give, but with THE DREAMERS, the creator is reborn and next to his heroes he witnesses again the passage from adolescence and innocence to the age of responsibilities. A great fan of cinema himself, he doesn't hesitate to pay a number of tributes, just like Godard used to do in the past and Tarantino very recently. As he puts his view into the eyes of his protagonists, the girl and the boys seem to live inside the movies they adore. They're playing with lines from known films, they imitate characters, they put themselves into the sequences they love.

Despite their young age, all three actors not only do they show that they're worth of starring in a Bertolucci film, but they also go even further giving in every scene the necessary vividness and realistic tension. Ignoring the cosmogony taking place in the streets, they surrender to their own cosmogonic changes, to the wild sexual awakening, to the game between friendship and love, pleasure and pain. Eventually they commit themselves to the struggle between the game itself and real life. And that's where the heroes violently return in the thrilling final sequences in order to face their duty towards history.

THE DREAMERS is by far one the best motion pictures of the year, so daring but at the same time so energetic that seems able to touch anyone as a pure and romantic confession of a great filmmaker.
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Only real film lovers will understand – and love – this work of art
Benedict_Cumberbatch5 August 2005
"The Dreamers" is one of Bernardo Bertolucci's most underrated films. A mesmerizing love declaration for The Cinema, this unforgettable film must be discovered.

In 1968, 19-year-old American Matthew (Michael Pitt), while settling in Paris for studying French, meets two equally young, beautiful and liberal film buffs: the twins Isabelle (Eva Green, another Bertolucci's luminous discovery, like he did with Liv Tyler in "Stealing Beauty") and Theo (Louis Garrel, son of French director Philippe Garrel and the best of the cast). The twins' parents travel, and Matthew is invited to join the attractive duo in their apartment. He accepts the invitation, of course, and the threesome starts a bizarre game of seduction with a charming leitmotiv: riddles about classic films. Who doesn't know the right answer, has to do what he/she is asked to. In the background, student riots in defense of Henri Langlois and his merit on the Cinémathèque Française are breaking out on the streets.

The film is superb, artistically and technically. Bertolucci is top-notch, the soundtrack is overwhelming (with songs by Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix and Édith Piaf, among others), and the cinematography (by Fabio Cianchetti) is one of the best, if not the best, I've seen recently. Gilbert Adair, we can't forget, did an excellent job adapting his novel, "The Holy Innocents", to the big screens. The sex/full frontal scenes and amorality can shock some people, this is definitely not a film for all tastes (as almost all masterpieces), but those who are open-minded and admire good cinema, will be entranced. The ending is one of the most surprising, original and brilliant I've ever seen, but, unfortunately, not everyone will get it. That's a crying shame, but original films tend to be misunderstood. "The Dreamers" is no exception.

A must-see to all film lovers. My vote is 10.
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The Dreamers
FilmFanatic094 December 2006
Warning: Spoilers
The characters of "The Dreamers" love movies. They pass their time quoting them, reenacting scenes from them, and debating age-old questions such as the merits of Chaplin versus Keaton. When at the cinema, they make sure to sit in the rows closest to the screen. Why? So the images will reach them before anyone else, while still fresh. If this strikes you as illogical, perhaps "The Dreamers" isn't the movie for you. This is a film about film lovers and will likely be most appreciated by lovers of film in return. The basic narrative follows Matthew, a young American (the boyish Michael Pitt), who is studying in Paris during the late 60s, the time of the student riots. The film does a good job of setting up the loneliness which engulfs him in this foreign place, so we are quick to understand why he so eagerly accepts the offer to stay with French twins Isabelle and Theo (Eva Green and Louis Garrel) he has met at- where else?- the cinema.

As the three take up life in their spacious Parisian flat, vacated by the twins' parents while abroad, Matthew senses that something about these two is a bit off. It isn't long before he is aware of the incestuous undertones constantly present in the twins' interactions with one another. In attempting to confirm that their relationship does have some degree of limitations, Matthew questions Isabelle, receiving the chilling response, "He is always inside of me." It may be reassuring to Matthew, as well as many audience members, that no, these characters never sleep together in the literal sense. What is at work here is something much more difficult to explain. The film handles it well. Eventually, in an attempt to break Isabelle out of her self-inflicted dependency on her brother, Matthew asks her on a date, which proves to be the most joyfully innocent moment of the film. From here, things turn slightly ambiguous and the film opts to relinquish the personal, in favor of a more political ending. It is interesting to note the closing credits run over chanteuse Edith Piaf's "Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien" (No, I Regret Nothing). If we knew whether or not this was chosen in irony, a lot would be explained.

One can't help compare "The Dreamers" to Bertolucci's other Parisian-set exploration of erotica, "Last Tango in Paris." That film contained two lovers who were very much dead inside. "The Dreamers" contains three who are filled with youthful exuberance and have seemingly endless passion for things such as politics and the arts. Both films are frank and graphic in how they depict sex. As a matter of course, both stirred much controversy. I suspect many people will watch "The Dreamers" already expecting to be incensed by it. That is their loss. For those who are willing, "The Dreamers" can be a changing experience. What exactly it changes, however, is certainly bound to vary from person to person. Perhaps it will force you to reconsider your political outlook. Possibly it will alter how you view societally unacceptable relationships. Conceivably it could lead you to the realization of just how great an impact the films have on some people and their existence. Or maybe it will change your stance on who really was better: Chaplin or Keaton?

Side note: I found it endlessly refreshing to find a film where characters spoke in their native language when appropriate, and the audience was forced to make-do with subtitles.
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One of the Best Movies of the Year
Claudio Carvalho19 July 2005
In 1968, while living in Paris for learning French, the nineteen years old American Matthew (Michael Pitt) meets the also film lovers, amoral and incestuous twins Isabelle (Eva Green) and Theo (Louis Garrel) in the "Cinémathèque Française" in the Palais de Chaillot and they become best friends. They stay together in the twin's apartment, while many social protests are arising on the streets of Paris.

"The Dreamers" has been released on DVD in Brazil a couple of months ago, and it certainly is one of the best movies of the year. The story conflicts the dreams of three youngsters, who breathe and see the world through the cinema, and the reality of life, on the social movements on streets of Paris. The stone through the window of their apartment is a metaphor of the awakening of Isabelle and Theo. The direction is superb, the cinematography and camera are amazing, the erotic story having the background of true events is delightful and the performance of the cast is perfect. The beauty of the unknown Eva Green is very impressive, and I really recommend this outstanding movie. My vote is ten.

Title (Brazil): "Os Sonhadores" ("The Dreamers")
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maryfeather8010 November 2012
okay people,just because Bertolucci made a movie with two twins and a blonde American going around naked and doing silly stuff ,this is masterpiece?This is your interpretation of art?where is the art?while he is doing her and her brother is watching and making eggs???Is that art or just because in the name Bertolucci everything around is pure art??even the blood on their face, that was sick was...okay let me guess this one....masterful intelligent pure pure art!!!if any other director made this film he would be buried with the worst reviews ever!!!!if you are Bertolucci everything is good and intelligent and that is how everyone judge this movie,i m sure that even the people that didn't like this movie wrote they liked it because of the name of the director...because everybody found it artistic and masterful....
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What precedes dreaming is deep sleep
n2j324 January 2004
Warning: Spoilers

Is Bernardo Bertollucci showing his age in this mediocrity or is his reactionary outlook laid bare? "The Dreamers" is bad cinema at its best. The parisian setting of "that" 1968 spring is but an excuse for an essentially superficial commentary.Prior to watching it i read a review that portrayed the film as 'an account of the sexually perplexed life of three characters and their contemporary (political?) worries.' So far so good. As the reel unfolded I managed to identify four (4) points of contention that could double as 'worries' [i.e. arguments/points relevant to the undoubtedly turbulent setting]

1. The pseudo-philosophical ramblings of Matthew (Michael Pitt) in the avec parents dinner where a Zippo(tm) lighter serves as the vehicle of a wholistic expose [we're all part of a bigger plan, everything's in total harmony etc.]Interesting. [heh]

2. An evocation of Vietnam in a dialogue between Theo [Louis Garrel] and Matthew. Again, simplification at its best. Americans kill villagers vs. Americans are obligated to join the army. [Similar to Southpark's "Drugs are bad...mkay?"]

3. A critique of communism that would make Western cold war propaghandists stutter. (Mao as the director of a cast of "extras" etc.)

4. A vague 'respect' for Cinema [note the capital C] that materialises in the 3D pictionary the characters enjoy playing [in the form of "guess the film" etc]. So long for French film theory and critique [film theory was incedentally at its peak around that time];)

Even if we disregard the setting (afterall, it could have been set in 80s Paris for all that matters) and focus on the story itself [the three lovers etc] we see the dynamic of this threesome numbed; just when their relationship is about to get out of hand Matthew makes sure to remind Isabelle [Eva Green] the merits of monogamous "dating" and sharing a glass of soda etc. 1/10
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