17 February 2004

i saw bernardo bertolucci's the dreamers today. there's so much to say about it, yet given my own particular time constraints as i write this, it's probably best to say as little as possible. (why write about it at all, then? simply because it's fascinated me since i left the theater.) at times, it suggests a henry james novel -- naive american embroiled in a world of european decadence he can hardly understand; at other times, it seems like an inversion of a bout de souffle's creative team, that is truffaut directing from a godard treatment. put in the most ungainly terms, the dreamers is a film about film, for people who love film, and about people who live life as if it were a film; that is, as if it were life that imitated art instead of the converse, or perhaps, and more troubling, as if art initiated life. the film is set against an increasingly agitated political culture (the days leading up to the may '68 student riots in paris), and it's not until, as the film puts it, the streets come flying through the window that the protagonists confront what is happening inside their ever-shrinking internal world and realize the implausibility of living like it's still 1959.

the film deserves its nc-17 rating: i can't imagine many under 17 finding much of interest in the film, apart from the sex scenes, which they can probably download off the internet as i type this. (and, yes, eva green has instantaneously set herself up as an object of both lust and affection for generations of moviegoers to come. moreover, she gives a strong performance -- though feminist critics might argue otherwise, and, to go out on a limb, i think she will have a brighter future than, say, maria schneider.) however, if one is a cinephile, this is basically your high fidelity. the viewer can play a meta- version of the "name that film" that the characters themselves play: is that "ferdinand" from duhamel's pierrot le feu score? is that tom ewell on the screen? etc. leaving the theatre, i felt nostalgia for an era i never lived through, an era where film was granted primacy and something worth fighting for. if only for that reason, it's worth seeing; its charms, however, are multitude.

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