DVD Move Review: The Dreamers (2003)

maxresdefaultThe Dreamers (2003) is a film you are supposed to experience, rather than watch. There is far too much going on in Bernardo Bertolucci’s piece to process logically, so you needn’t worry about picking holes in the plot, or anything else. A word of warning, though. If you are against a little bit (okay, a lot) of nudity, The Dreamers may not be for you.

Hollywood sometimes gets a bit squeamish about nudity. It is little surprise then that the many people didn’t warm to the film, or more specifically, some of the ideas and imagery portrayed in it. What is most unfair, though, is to scorch the film based on the director’s reputation, which has been done in the past.

In terms of plot, there are two narratives going on here. There first is a little bit of history for you. Matthew (Michael Pitt), is an American film enthusiast and student. He travels to Paris during the Paris student riots, strikes and protests of the late 60s. There he meets and stays with Théo (Louis Garrel) and Isabelle (Eva Green), who are also lovers of film, and happen to be twins. Expect a lot of English and some French. The Dreamers is very much a visual film, so don’t get too bogged down on the interchanging dialogue. The twins end up sharing their new-found friend with one another, in more ways than you might imagine. That’s where the second narrative comes in. Queue the nudity…

Firstly, let’s get the obvious out of the way. How much nudity are we talking about here? Suffice to say, more than a wee bit. Eva Green goes full frontal, and not just from a distance. We’re talking up close camera work. Michael Pitt’s bits are also plastered on the screen for all to see. In my opinion (though apparently, I’m in the minority), none of the nudity is particularly gratuitous, since it does help to paint a very warped picture of the lifestyle of the twins; their curiosity, for instance.

So, yes, that second narrative. This parallel story concerns the relationship which develops between the three main characters. Naturally, there’s a love story going on between Pitt’s and Green’s characters, and you are kind of hoping in the beginning that Théo might just be a third wheel. Isabelle would disagree, though. You see where this is going? Their relationship makes for fascinating, if uncomfortable viewing at times. It has to be said, I find that the chemistry between Green and Pitt is as cold as ice, but it is scary how in tune Green and Garrel were able to work together. For characters are complex as Isabelle and Théo, that is essential.

After a lot of sexual experimentation, and a lot of throwbacks and homages to past movies, the anything goes attitude of the twins and Matthew, culminates in them participating in the aforementioned riots. After all the smoke is cleared, Matthew walks away from the carnage, no doubt returning to America something less of a prude.

The experience Bertolucci takes you on is a puzzler. Initially, via the first narrative, you are led to believe that The Dreamers is merely about a film about students who love films, in a film by a director who also loves pictures. In such a short space of time, it movies on rapidly to something else entirely. It takes you on a journey, all the while you’re trying to decrypt the feelings and emotions of the trio’s relationship to one another. By the time the most extensive and expressive of the nude scenes is over, you have given up. From there out, as I’ve said, The Dreamers is just an experience, not merely a film.

If you can look past that, and some of the more grotesque elements of those scenes, you’ll find it a heart-warming film, and one which has been clearly thought out. The way the two narratives split apart, and come together again are magical. There are also signs in The Dreamers that Bertolucci is trying to show his admiration for classic films. It is just the way he has chosen to do it, through the “you show me yours, and I’ll show you mine” explorative attitude of the characters, which has people turning away from this film.

Deep is probably not the best word to describe The Dreamers. I prefer layered, or perhaps raw. Whatever your taste in films, there are few like this one. Personally, I like it. It’s different, and I’d certainly recommend it. You know, as long as you’re open to experiencing something slightly outside of your comfort zone.

115 mins.

DVD Movie Review: The Quatermass Xperiment (1955)

rexfeatures_409088doSuch was my recent enjoyment in writing a review for Roy Ward Baker‘s seminal Quatermass and the Pit (1967), I felt it was only fair to go back to the character’s beginnings with director Val Guest‘s film adaptation of the original BBC series, which became famous on its release for clearing the streets and bars, such was its popularity in the UK.

So, how does Hammer’s The Quatermass Xperiment (1955) (so called to cash in on its ‘X’ certificate, which was new in those days) compare? Well, first up, it unfortunately has American actor Brian Donlevy in the title role – Quatermass creator Nigel Kneale expressed his enormous displeasure at this casting, with Donlevy delivering a performance that was brusque, uncaring and automaton-like, which is not at all in keeping with Professor Quatermass as originally created by Kneale – his scientist was a driven, focused but caring, moral and compassionate man (much more like Andrew Kier, who played him in …Pit, or Sir John Mills, who played him in Quatermass (1979)).

No matter, however – the film has many strengths that have endured outside its lead performance, not least of which is the utterly creepy locked-room mystery at its core. Quatermass, the founder and head of the British Rocket Group, has launched the first manned rocket into space. Shortly after, all contact is lost with the rocket and the three crew: Carroon (Richard Wordsworth), Reichenheim, and Green. The rocket later returns to Earth, crashing into an English field.

Quatermass arrives at the scene, along with the emergency services. Opening the rocket’s access hatch, they find only Carroon inside; there is no sign of the other two crew members. Carroon appears to be in shock, only able to mouth the words ‘Help me’. He is taken to hospital while Quatermass investigates what happened to the rocket and its two missing crew – and it quickly becomes evident that Carroon has been altered by something he encountered in space; he can absorb any living thing with which he comes in contact…Quatermass realizes that the rapidly mutating Carroon creature is on the verge of sporing, which will threaten all of humanity. The clock is ticking…

The screenplay, written by Richard Landau and Guest, presents a heavily compressed version of the events of the original television serial. It was the first Hammer production to attract the attention of a major distributor in the US, in this case United Artists, which distributed the film under the title The Creeping Unknown.

It is a remarkably successful adaptation – Wordsworth is excellent as the plague astronaut, desperate to save himself from what is consuming him. And look out for a performance from a very young Jane Asher, as the little girl who falls into Carroon’s path.

Scary, genuinely creepy and thrilling – so long as you can get past Donlevy.

82 mins.