Tuesday, June 21, 2005

The Dreamers

Tonight I watched the film The Dreamers. It's a film about three people in Paris in 1968, at the time that the street riots of that era were just beginning. Proving that yes, you do use stuff you learn in high school, I recalled that these riots were basically the start of the student protest movement, and they spread to the US creating the primary cultural image we hold of the 'The 60s,' as a time of protest, of peace and love and cultural revolution. This movie is concerned with all of this, focusing on love, sex and cinema.

The first chunk of the movie is primarily about cinema. Seeing the movie you get a sense of a time when cinema was a really crucial social force, setting the tone for what youth culture was. Today, it's not like that, at least not in the circles I run in. I love cinema and I do see it as something that can change the world, but other people don't. People perceive movies as commercial product and rarely view the most important films and even if they do, there's not really a strong film culture anymore. Even at Wesleyan, a place renowned for its film program, there's a layer of irony applied when assessing anything, and judging from this movie, that just wasn't true in the 60s. These people believed that cinema could change the world, and that's something I'd like to get back to. But, I suppose it's easy to say that things were better back then, I doubt if I was alive in 1968 I'd be on the cutting edge of the art cinema movement.

Anyway, regardless of its veracity, I loved the picture of cinema the beginning of this film paints. Matthew goes to the cinema and it's a transforming experience, he becomes connected to the forefront of French culture, and when the Cinemateque is shut down, he finds himself with two new friends, Theo and Isabelle. During the cinema shut down sequence, it was very cool to see Jean Pierre Leaud in a current cameo, as well as vintage footage of Godard and Truffaut.

The majority of the film is concerned with the boundary pushing sibling relationship of Theo and Isabelle. Matthew finds himself unsure how to deal with the two of them. I love their early interactions, when the three of them recreate classic movie moments, basically trying to live the life they see on screen. They all hold these really idealistic views of life and society and together create an isolated community, apart from the world.

The movie is one of the rare films to actually take the NC-17 rating and in this case, it's clearly earned. The film's sexuality goes far beyond what we'd see in most American movies, and the characters are almost constantly naked for the last third of the film. I think the movie to some extent loses focus during this chunk. On the one hand, I could say that the sex scenes don't really add anything to the plot, but from an aestethic standpoint, it's certainly not a pain to have to watch Eva Green naked in scene after scene. I can see what Bertolucci is trying to do with these scenes, and there is some interesting exploration of the relationship between Theo and Isabelle.

What we realize at the end of it is that the two of them have a relationship that transcends anything they can have with an outsider. In the really striking scene where Matthew is in Isabelle's bedroom and she has a breakdown hearing Theo have sex we understand the fact that they are connected, like siamese twins, and the wall between them is too painful. They need to be together. That scene is also notable for the extremely striking image of her recreating the Venus De Milo by standing with black gloves in a dark doorway.

I really like the end of the film, in which the twins finally leave Matthew when he refuses to go along with their 'revolutionary action.' What the movie is about is the disconnect between their rhetoric and their action. They talk big, about their support for Mao and belief in change, but even when that change is happening right outside, they spend all their time inside, oblivious to the outside world. At the end, Matthew finally disconnects from Theo, and figures that Isabelle will stay with him. However, that is not to be. The two of them go off together, leaving him in a crowd of rioters. Their month long dream together is over and Matthew is the one left out at the end.

This is a film that I thoroughly enjoyed watching, but will have to give another viewing to determine just how good it really is. It's easy to embrace their ideals and believe in this view of a cinema that can recreate society. I love the recreation of moments from New Wave movies, and visually, the film is absolutely beautiful. The score is top notch too, it's only the fact that the movie slightly loses its way during the middle. However, I think everything's basically redeemed by the ending and after it all, we've got a top notch movie, one made with passion and a vision of a world much more alive with potential than ours today.


Anonymous said...

I didn't get to see the end of the film but now i know what happens thanks.
I don't know what it is about this film but it just makes me want to BE french and live in France.
I really wanted Isabel and Matthew to be together because the scene where she loses her virginity... you can see the true passion and love they have for each other.
IT's a shame it didn't work out.
All in all very good acting, the only thing that dissapointed me was that i watched Eva green in Casino royale and thought she must be american or english, so when i saw her acting in this i thought she was a superb actress for looking and being so french! But then i realised she is french so it's only inevitable she would act it.
Overall 10/10... but i haven't seen the end so my rating might change :P

taylor said...

Thank you so much for posting this, makes me appreciate the movie a bit more.

Anonymous said...

i feel the same about what you said.

People perceive movies as commercial product and rarely view the most important films and even if they do, there's not really a strong film culture anymore.

Anonymous said...

I watched the film in the class and cannot find it anywhere online or dvd stores to rent and watch it a agatin. so i'm here to ask if you happen to know...that why is it crucial to the movie that they are "film buffs" as Theo (if my memory doesn't fail me) says this in the film? What exactly did Theo say at that time, do you know?
Thanks so much for helping!

Mkv to avi said...

Thanks for a good review, the movie is incredibly good! I'll definitely watch it again.

Anonymous said...

The ending could of been a lot clearer and better than it was to be fair!
I found this film rather odd and unexplantary in certain parts of the film which seemed to make no apparant sense to me at all, I feel kind of left wondering what was that all about and feel it was abit of mindf*ck! I would not recommend watching this film if your in a happy mood!

Anonymous said...

Your review of the dreamers was horrible... Sorry to say... : / you obviously did not understand this movie at all your a moe-ron!!!! Sorry not trying to be rude :)

Anonymous said...

What was your take on the film?

Anonymous said...

Thanks for confirming the part where Isobel freaks out in her room, I didn't understand that at first. I read the plot summary on the back of the DVD and saw it said that Theo and she were born conjoined.

Unknown said...
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Anonymous said...

I just watched this movie. I disagree in the ending being good. I find it jarring and weird. It's like being thrust back into reality, I guess. I just didn't like that the twins regected Matthew. And it was like they became part of the crowd, and stopped being who they are, if that makes sense? Like extras. They stopped being real, in a way.

Matthew was the one left feeling real as he watched them leave him behind. His pain was real as he turned and walked away.

Also, I still am confused on that moment in the movie when we first see the twin's father. The daughter hugs him and he like touches her weirdly. Almost sensual. It made me think that maybe something awful was happening there, but it never came up in the movie, so maybe It's just an unfounded suspicion.

The movie is beautiful. But that ending... I didn't like it.