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:: The Dreamers

Set against the background of the Paris riots of 1968, and the burgeoning growth of the youthful protest movement of the era, legendary Italian director Bernardo Bertolucci's latest film offers a heady mix of rebellion, youthful idealism, a sensational soundtrack of 60's music, numerous filmic references and sex. Working from an adaptation of a semi-autobiographical novel written by Gilbert Adair (Love And Death On Long Island, etc), but Bertolucci suffuses the material with plenty of his own obsessions and concerns.

The film centres around Matthew (played superbly by Michael Pitt, from Hedwig and The Angry Inch and also one of the teen thrill killers in the routine Sandra Bullock mystery Murder By Numbers), a young American in Paris to study languages. Experiencing the chic and exotic delights of Paris the '60's, the naive exchange student eventually finds himself caught up in the riots surrounding the sacking of the legendary head of the Paris cinemateque. He also meets the kinky but attractive sibling couple of Isabelle and Theo (Eva Green and Louis Garrel), who share a strangely disturbing close bond. The sybaritic couple invites Matthew to stay at their luxurious apartment while their literary-minded parents are away on holiday. The idyllic stay in the apartment though turns into a strange menage-a-trois that explores the boundaries of sexuality, and their sex games are something of an eye opening experience for the conservative young American.

While offering a far different perspective on the Paris of either The Conformist or Last Tango, The Dreamers still explores many themes and ideas familiar to much of Bertolucci's earlier work. But, played out in more claustrophobic surroundings, it inevitably lacks the usual epic sweep and power of films like the Oscar winning The Last Emperor or 1900, etc. There's a strong homoerotic undercurrent running through much of The Dreamers, although Bertolucci strangely fails to acknowledge it, and seems to shy away from the implied homosexual attraction between Theo and Matthew. Thirty years ago Bertolucci shocked audiences with the sexuality and frankness of Last Tango In Paris; but today's audiences are more blase and have seen it all before, and will hardly be upset by the full frontal nudity and the occasionally explicit sex on display here.
The Dreamers is visually rich and lusciously filmed by Fabio Cianchetti. The film is also full of cinematic references and defining images from the New Wave of French cinema that will resonate strongly with cinephiles and genuine buffs, and the soundtrack, featuring '60's icons like The Doors and Janis Joplin, is beautifully evocative of the era.

A more personal film than usual from Bertolucci, The Dreamers is, ultimately, a tad pretentious and unlikely to inspire or enthrall more casual film goers.