Monday 17 June 2024

Mubi Monday: The Dreamers (2003)

I don’t know how I could have ever forgotten that Bernardo Bertolucci once directed a movie that starred Michael Pitt, Louis Garrel, and Eva Green, but I did. Rummaging around in the depths of my own memory banks, I vaguely remember it being released before I was more aware of Bertolucci’s films (aside from his most notorious title), and it was certainly before I would have been won over by the cast. So it came and it went without making any lasting impression on me.

Set in a turbulent Paris of the 1960s, this is the tale of a young American (Matthew, played by Pitt) who ends up befriending a pair of intriguing, but also potentially dangerous, twin siblings (Isabelle and Theo, played by Green and Garrel). They are safe, and largely sheltered, when spending time indoors sharing a love of cinema, indulging in games that lead to erotic forfeits, or engaging in philosophical discussions, but the outside world cannot be avoided forever.

While I have enjoyed, and loved, some of his work, I have never been as big a fan of Bertolucci as some people. Last Tango In Paris is a cold and clumsy movie that remains notorious for one horrible scene, and it was a mistake to start with that major touchstone when I started broadening my cinematic horizons. But for anyone else who feels the same way, I highly recommend checking out The Sheltering Sky and, his masterpiece, The Last Emperor. And this. Yes, this is an erotically-charged look at human connection and development that works far better than the film that many others view as the standout from his filmography.

Adapted from his own novel into screenplay for my Gilbert Adair, there’s a constant feeling of worlds pressing against one another here, be they worlds of flesh and bone or worlds of political and philosophical division. While one character is shown to be an outsider, it could be argued that all three of our leads remains outsiders for the majority of the runtime, and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing when viewers are reminded of the environments that they are keeping themselves away from.

The direction from Bertolucci is superb, allowing us to move around, and in between, the three leads as they spend their time playing, fighting, and generally intertwining themselves into one big mix of limbs and genitalia.

As for the performances, everyone is impressively fearless when it comes to delivering the material. I couldn’t pick any one over the other, and am happy to say that this remains a highlight in the film careers of all three main players (which is a particular compliment to both Green and Garrel, who have gone on to display their talents in numerous other projects, while Pitt seems to have been intent on scuppering his own progress throughout the past couple of decades). There are also a couple of scenes that allow Anna Chancellor and Robin Renucci to play the parents of our hedonistic twins, and those moments show a nice understanding between different generations, even with the obvious division still there.

With a selection of great songs on the soundtrack, as well as numerous film references and clips interspersed throughout, there is plenty of sugar coated around the bitterness at the heart of it, and I appreciate both Adair and Bertolucci avoiding the many very dark paths this could have taken. It is called The Dreamers, after all, so a sudden nightmare wouldn’t be out of place, but the real horrors are outside the bubble of irresponsibility that our leads reside in. Even if we know that they will have to fully wake up and leave that bubble one day.


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  1. I watched The Last Emperor about 26-27 years ago in a college film study class. I generally remember liking it. I'm trying to remember what else we watched for that class but at the moment I only remember we watched Evita, which had just come out in theaters.