out of Five
Running time: 115
Stylish, erotic, forgivably pretentious drama with lashings of explicit sex and strong performances from its three leads.
The Dreamers is adapted for the screen by Gilbert Adair, based on his 1988 novel The Holy Innocents. It’s also directed by Bernardo Bertolucci, which seems oddly appropriate, given that the same director made the equally controversial Last Tango In Paris – indeed, you could practically nick-name The Dreamers ‘First Tango In Paris’.
At any rate, though it won’t be to everyone’s tastes, The Dreamers is an erotic, frequently pretentious but no less enjoyable drama that’s a treat for fans of classic cinema.
Michael Pitt (Hedwig and the Angry Inch) stars as Matthew, an American student and obsessive film fan, studying in Paris in 1968. Spending most of his time at the famous Cinematheque, Matthew quickly befriends two fellow students: sultry, beautiful Isabelle (Eva Green) and her non-identical twin brother Theo (Louis Garrel).
When their parents go on holiday, Isabelle and Theo invite Matthew to stay at their apartment, where they play a series of increasingly messed up mind games, experimenting with both their sexuality and their emotions – their favourite game involves spotting film references, with sexual forfeits involved for the loser.
The film is undoubtedly pretentious, but this is entirely justified by the characters themselves - the games they play are about play-acting, their conversations and actions deliberately stylised to reflect and emulate the films they constantly watch. Bertolucci makes excellent use of old film clips and part of the fun of the film (at least for Rabid Film Obsessives) is in ‘playing along’ with the characters, though joining in with the forfeits is probably ill-advised.
The editing is superb, too – particularly the scene where they run through the Louvre, which is cut together with the characters from La Bande Aparte doing the same thing.
As for the performances, Pitt does well in his biggest role to date, but it’s Eva Green who really impresses – she’s hypnotically beautiful, though at the same time you can occasionally glimpse the messed-up vulnerability in her face. Louis Garrel is also good – his chemistry with Green is disturbingly intense and the film is cleverly structured so that you spend a large part of it wondering exactly who is controlling who. (It’s also very odd to see Anna Chancellor playing their mother!).
There are several great scenes, as well as several instances of
censor-baiting that are bound to prove controversial – particularly amusing is an extended masturbation sequence in front of a picture of Marlene Dietrich, as well as a bizarre scene where Matthew and Isabelle have graphic sex on the kitchen floor while Theo nonchalantly fries a few eggs. (Frankly, this is the best film to see for Shallow And Obvious Reasons since Swimming Pool).
In short, The Dreamers is a stylish, intensely erotic drama with good performances - it won’t appeal to everyone, but film fanatics should get a big kick out of it. Recommended.