THE DREAMERS (2003)
Running Time: 112 mins. Rating: xx Stars/5 Stars
MPAA Rating: R
Director: Bernardo Bertolucci
Distributor: Fox Searchlight
Cast: Michael Pitt, Eva Green, Louis Garrel, Anna Chancellor, Jean-Pierre Leaud
Dodging The ’68 Bullet Once Again.
Make no mistake, THE DREAMERS is better than a not bad film. Its pretty OK but still something of a disappointment. The film is supposedly set in Paris in the Spring of 1968 and begins with footage of the battle for the Cinematheque Francaise both original and recreated. Instead of staying in the streets the film retreats to the interior of a grand apartment where the three principals spend most of the following film. It reminds me of the film 1969 (1988) in which while the world around is exploding in crazy ways the principals can only watch from afar as they work out their own personal what used to be called hang-ups.
The story concerns a pair of Anglo-French twins and a fresh-faced American who moves in with them when the parents go away for a month’s vacation.
There is some strong resemblances to Cocteau’s (and Melville’s) LES ENFANTS TERRIBLE (1950). The real disappointment is that once again the cinema has failed to tackle head on the situation of the Sixties and the cultural revolution. It is a topic assiduously avoided by mainstream cinema and here, again, merely toyed with by the art cinema.
I remember during the summer of ’68 Godard sent, with a huge amount of fanfare, a film purporting to be straight from the streets of Paris. It was shown at Lincoln Center and turned out to be one long un-subtitled shot of some students at Nanterre University discussing who knows what. Just to show the audience that he, Godard, knew just what the audience had come for there were occasional flashes of almost subliminal cuts of Parisian Street Action. The audience revolted and someone shut down the film by turning on the lights and causing the screen to ascend to the flies. (The leader of the revolt and stopper of the film was your correspondent.) The theoretical idea might have been that this is what Godard had planned all along – to get people away from the passivity of being an audience and into the streets.
Unfortunately, most of the audience had already been struggling in the streets of New York and wanted to see what had happened in the streets of Paris. Again, if there are any young people genuinely curious about what it was like in 1968 THE DREAMERS will let them know in only the most oblique way. Cineastes (presumably among the older generations) will enjoy themselves whatever. I still want to see an honest delineation of what it was like in that terrible and wonderful year of 1968. This is just more prevarication and obscuration. Then again if I had found myself in a huge Paris apartment with two young, attractive and willing playmates maybe I would have let the revolution go to hell too.
Another great disappointment with the film is the way it gets right up close and personal to the subject of bi-sexuality and then criminally, timidly, avoids the whole topic. Apparently it was part of the original story in the book as well as in life. This might be due to commercial considerations, the objection by the management of the star Michael Pitt, or else Bertolucci felt uncomfortable with the parallel that might be drawn with his private life, assumptions caused by drawing attention to his collaborations with his wife Claire Peploe and her brother Mark. Whatever the speculations might be, taking us right up to the edge and not going past was something of an anti-climax. That might be a fitting eulogy for Bertolucci’s career, so often getting closer to a really important idea than anybody else but then suffering a crisis of either the heart or pocketbook and pulling away leaving the finished product somehow incomplete.
BTW: It seems awfully warm for April in Paris but I’d go for it in an instant.
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