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Bernardo Bertolucci
Michael Pitt, Eva Green, Louis Garrel, Anna Chancellor, Robin Renucci, Jean-Pierre Kalfon, Jean-Pierre Léaud, Florian Cadiou
Writing Credits:
Gilbert Adair

From Academy Award winning director Bernardo Bertolucci (The Last Emperor, 1987), comes an erotic tale of three young film lovers brought together by their passion for movies - and each other.

When Isabelle and Theo (Eva Green, Louis Garrel) invite Matthew (Michael Pitt) to stay with them, what begins as a casual friendship ripens into a sensual voyage of discovery and desire in which nothing is off limits and anything is possible. Featuring an engaging, seductive cast, The Dreamers is an unforgettable tale of sexual awakening that will "make you fall in love or lust." (Chicago Tribune)

Box Office:
Opening Weekend
$142.632 thousand on 5 screens.
Domestic Gross
$2.531 million.

Rated NC-17

Widescreen 1.85:1/16x9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish Dolby 2.0
French Dolby 2.0

Runtime: 115 min.
Price: $29.98
Release Date: 7/13/2004

• Audio Commentary with Director Bernardo Bertolucci, Writer Gilbert Adair and Producer Jeremy Thomas
• “Bertolucci Makes The Dreamers” Documentary
• “Outside the Window: Events in France, May 1968” Featurette
• Music Video
• Trailer


Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


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The Dreamers (2003)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (July 11, 2004)

More than 30 years ago, Bernardo Bertolucci caused a sensation with the provocative sex of Last Tango in Paris. The director returns to that city and that topic via The Dreamers, a highly sexualized examination of Paris in the late Sixties.

We meet 20-year-old American Matthew (Michael Pitt), who comes to Paris to learn French. Set in the spring of 1968, Matthew becomes an obsessive movie buff and spends many others with other cineastes at the Cinematheque, a theater created by leading film fan Henri Langlois. When the French government fires Langlois, protests erupt.

In the midst of this Matthew meets sexy young Isabelle (Eva Green), and she introduces him to her twin brother Theo (Louis Garrel). When a protest ends in police violence, the three race off together and talk for hours. They invite him to dinner at their parents’ house, but don’t tell their mother (Anna Chancellor). Matthew meets their poet father (Robin Renucci) as well and chat over dinner about philosophical issues and the effectiveness of the protests. We see some bitterness between Theo and his dad, who apparently used to be successful but who has fallen on lean times.

When the parents go out of town, the twins invite Matthew to stay with them, which he does. The movie follows this three-way relationship as the three spend all of their time in the apartment, where they talk endlessly. We see the sexual comfort level between Isabelle and Theo that stretches taboos and watch as they involve Matthew in their activities. The movie also focuses on the kids’ obsession with the movies and how they relate to each other via film references.

That element creates one of the most intriguing parts of Dreamers. The movie occasionally cuts to movies to speak for the characters, and they quote them. This is an interesting device, as though the characters live their lives through what they’ve seen on the screen.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t add much depth to the piece, and I often wondered what the point of the tale was. On one hand, it occasionally feels like a basic coming of age tale, as Matthew sheds his innocence and indulges in various activities. Parts of the film make it feel like a dreamy piece of nostalgia, as the filmmakers look back on their own youths and long for those days.

On the other hand, Bertolucci often pokes holes in the nostalgia, mostly as the film exposes the empty activism of its characters. They talk a good game, but the movie contrasts their platitudes with their inactivity. While riots happen around them, the main characters stay in the apartment, make lots of movie references, and have sex. They remain almost totally uninvolved in all the causes that they claim matter to them.

These contrasting elements made me wonder what the ultimate point of the flick was, other than to show good-looking, naked young people. And that factor pops up in spades. An equal-opportunity skin flick, we get long looks at both Pitt and Garrel in states of undress. One scene even features a disturbingly tight close-up of Pitt’s unit.

However, Green does the majority of the heavy naked lifting, a factor that makes me pretty happy. Stunningly gorgeous, Green looks awfully good sans clothes, and since the movie makes her strip without much provocation, it’ll find fans who never pay a whit of attention to the storyline.

Does it offer anything more than a glorified Playboy video? Yeah, but again, the inconsistency and lack of a solid thesis makes it erratic. Dreamers alights upon a mix of topics but never investigates any of them very well. The characters’ use of movie clips to speak for them addresses a basic emptiness in their convictions, and it aptly points out how many “intellectuals” do nothing more than offer warmed-over thoughts of others.

Unfortunately, the movie doesn’t really develop this concept, and it also falls short when it touches on the implied incest between Theo and Isabelle. Dreamers dances around that topic and never really gets into it. The film flirts with their pathology at best and leaves us unsatisfied when we want to learn more about their strange relationship.

Ultimately, The Dreamers feels like it serves too many masters to fully succeed. Part love letter to the past, part social exposé, part sex flick, it flits around and never develops much consistency.

Bizarre media moment of the day: the DVD’s cover includes a quote from the New York Post’s Lou Lumenick, who calls The Dreamers “A steamy erotic thriller”. Buh? Yeah, the movie includes a lot of sexy, but there’s absolutely nothing about it that places it in the “thriller” category. I don’t know what movie Lou saw, but it wasn’t The Dreamers.

Note that this review covers the “NC-17” version of The Dreamers. Fox also put out a cut “R”-rated edition of the film, but the “NC-17” one represents the flick as intended by the director.

The DVD Grades: Picture A-/ Audio B/ Bonus B+

The Dreamers appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. For the most part, Dreamers presented a lush and distinctive picture.

Sharpness looked solid. If any examples of softness appeared, I didn’t detect them. The movie came across as tight and accurate at all times. Jagged edges and moiré effects presented no concerns, and only the slightest smidgen of edge enhancement popped up on a couple of occasions. Other than a speck or two, the movie betrayed no print flaws. (This doesn’t count the movie clips that popped up throughout the flick; the displayed some minor issues but I didn’t factor them into my grade.)

Most of Dreamers boasted vivid and lively colors. The hues came across really well throughout the movie. Reds looked especially rich and vibrant, but all the colors popped off the screen with great clarity in this warm and inviting palette. Blacks also seemed deep and dense, while shadows were tight and well defined. The candlelight scene after dinner appeared firm and smoothly developed. Ultimately, Dreamers offered an excellent image.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack made less of an impression, but that didn’t come as a surprise, for I didn’t expect much from it. The soundfield presented the kind of fairly limited scope that I anticipated. For the most part, the audio stayed heavily oriented toward the front channels. Music showed acceptable stereo definition, and effects helped create a moderately inviting sense of place. The surrounds kicked in for a few occasions such as during rainstorms or riots, and some psychedelic music as well. Otherwise, the track stayed pretty restricted, as not much added to the proceedings.

Audio quality was fine. Speech seemed natural and distinct, and dialogue suffered from no flaws or distractions. Music enjoyed nice dynamics, as the score consistently sounded smooth and robust. Effects mostly stayed limited, but the track reproduced the elements with more than acceptable accuracy. Bass response was good, though nothing about the mix provided much low-end information. In the end, the audio of The Dreamers served the movie well but it did nothing to stand out from the pack.

For extras, we start with an audio commentary from director Bernardo Bertolucci, writer Gilbert Adair and producer Jeremy Thomas. Each was recorded separately for this edited program. This proves to be a insightful and useful track. The commentary covers subjects such as differences among the novel, the script, and the movie, its use of nudity, depictions of real-life events and the participants’ own experiences, locations and sets, themes, the use of external film clips, and the actors. All three men seem up-front about the experience, and this commentary comes blissfully free of the usual happy talk. Instead, we get an introspective analysis of the movie that adds to one’s appreciation and understanding of it.

Next we find a BBC documentary called Cinema, Sex, Politics: Bertolucci Directs The Dreamers. It fills 52 minutes and 20 seconds with the standard mix of movie snippets, behind the scenes footage, and interviews. We get notes from Bertolucci, Adair, Thomas, production designer Jean Rabasse, and actors Eva Green, Michael Pitt, Louis Garrel, and Jean-Pierre Kalfon. They chat about the film’s historical background, Bertolucci’s approach to period flicks and directorial style, casting and the actors’ work, camera styles, locations and sets, and some thematic issues.

While somewhat disjointed in its pacing, “Politics” offers a fairly good synopsis of the production. The information provided seems generally solid, though not up to the insight found in the commentary. Unsurprisingly, the best elements stem from the footage from the set. These provided a nice look at the shoot and give us a solid feel for the way things went. I also like the notes about the reality of the situation in 1968. The documentary rarely shines, but it works well overall.

For addition information on the historical side of things, we head to Outside the Window: Events in France, May 1968. In this 14-minute and 25-second featurette we see some movie shots plus location and historical footage and comments from Adair, Bertolucci, and New Left Review editor Professor Robin Blackburn, We get notes about the background to the situation as well as the events themselves. The program presents events in a reasonably concise manner and gives us a good feel for things that expands on the film and information in the prior documentary.

In addition to the film’s trailer and an ad for Garden State, the DVD ends with a music video. We get actor a rendition of “Hey Joe” by Michael Pitt and the Twins of Evil. Pitt’s overwrought take on the tune won’t make anyone forget Hendrix, and the video is nothing more than a dull mix of movie clips, rehearsal/studio footage, and a few behind the scenes shows from the movie..

Is there any reason to watch The Dreamers other than to see the amazingly sexy Eva Green naked? Not really. The film manages sporadically engaging moments but not enough to make it consistently intriguing or provocative, especially since it fails to develop any real concepts in a satisfying way. The DVD presents excellent picture with good audio and a small but nice set of extras highlighted by a strong audio commentary. The Dreamers succeeds as a DVD but the movie is too lackluster for me to recommend it.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.3448 Stars Number of Votes: 29
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