3/10 | 3.Jul.12
DIRECTOR: Bernardo Bertolucci | WRITERS: Gilbert Adair | CAST: Michael Pitt, Louis Garrel, Eva Green | UK
I really can’t think of much good to say about Bernardo Bertolucci’s misbegotten The Dreamers, a tediously literal-minded tromp through, essentially, Cocteau’s novel Les Enfants terribles (I’m not going to discuss the vastly superior movie Jean-Pierre Melville made from it)*. Set in Paris amidst les événements de Mai 1968 (which appear on television and through really crummy reenactments), The Dreamers tells the tale of Matthew, an American college student/cinephile, who falls under the sway of Parisian twins Théo and Isabelle who live in a cinema-fueled and incestuous world of their own. Bertolucci’s handling of the material is so literal and so distrusting of his audience’s own film knowledge that every allusion to another movie, and there are countless such allusions, is made explicit either by naming the movie or by showing a clip from it or both. (Bertolucci should have taken a peek at Resnais’ Mon oncle d’Amérique to see how this kind of thing can be handled seamlessly and with great impact.)
But there’s something fake about The Dreamers. It never for a second looks or sounds or feels like 1968 or even a memory of what 1968 was like or a dream of what it could have been like. The period music could have come from a Greatest Hits of the Late ’60s CD; the political arguments are painfully simplistic and contrived; the actors don’t look or act or move the way people in the 1960s did. The acting in general is not noteworthy although Louis Garrel as Théo does the brooding-young-Frenchman thing decoratively; both Michael Pitt (Matthew) and Eva Green (Isabelle) are really, really bad. In their favor I will say that I sometimes do enjoy watching actors say lines they clearly don’t understand. Minus a point for Bertolucci chickening out and eliminating the boy-boy sexual relationship that the material so clearly originally had in it. Minus another point for the character of Isabelle, a kooky and sexual young woman who’s not eccentric after all because she actually without question is psychotic; I’m tired of that meme.
* Yes, I know this movie was based on Gilbert Adair’s novel The Holy Innocents, but it was explicitly based on Cocteau’s Les Enfants terribles.