20 July 2004 | Alex_52
Sex, Cinema, Politics - A True Molotov Cocktail
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.