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The Dreamers

Rebels with a cause célèbre

Cinephiles consider the spring of 1968 in Paris as their 9/11, when the old order was shattered and perceptions about life and society shifted drastically, especially at the intersection of art and politics. While the Cinémathèque Française, the school for the young New Wave filmmakers, attracted social experimenters and political commentators alike, government crackdowns on protests fueled revolution in the street. Heady stuff back then for eighteen-year-old Bernardo Bertolucci, who considered the Cinémathèque his cathedral - and a great backdrop for a film exploring human relationships amid these turbulent times.

The Dreamers is nothing short of Bertolucci's homage to love, sex, and exploration in the Age of Cinema. Matthew, a sexy, young, impressionable American studying in Paris, befriends sexy Isabelle and her brother Theo, who welcome him wholly into their lives. With their progressive and tolerant parents out of town on vacation, they live a life of carefree abandon. And sex. Isabelle makes up the rules in this adolescent utopia; her increasingly demanding mind games seem aimed as much at her dear brother as they are at the handsome American. These siblings (twins, actually) share everything, including bed and bath. But not sex. Yet their boundaries are fluid and filled with tension. Matthew, curious and repulsed, is attracted to both brother and sister in ways that are new and startling to him.

Michael Pitt channels Leonardo DiCaprio, Eva Green sports scene-stealing breasts, and both of them engage in full frontal nudity. (Hello, NC-17!) As a power play, The Dreamers explores some interesting territory. The twins' outward sophistication masks a level of immaturity that undermines their ability to grow up: They act like prepubescent children incapable of fending for themselves when they run low on their allowance. Unfortunately, by focusing so much on the threesome indoors, The Dreamers fails to connect with the very times in which it is set, and about which it is ultimately centered.

The political setting created so earnestly at the beginning is all but forgotten by the middle. Do Isabelle, Theo, and Matthew really care about the politics they debate so passionately about or do they simply parrot whatever sounds cool? They're so disaffected, you wonder how much their rebellion is just juvenile playtime. Only at the end does reality intrude upon the lovers' lives, forcing them to confront their ideals and live with the consequences. With loving references to such classics as Queen Christina, Shock Corridor, Bande à Part, Scarface, Top Hat, and Persona, to name just a few, The Dreamers is a treat for any cinema lover. If only Bertolucci's obvious love of film and politics made a more meaningful, lasting statement.