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.

Funny Games US (2007)

Funny Games US (2007)Playing the games

More than ten years ago, German director Michael Haneke gave the world Funny Games (1997), a gruelling and relentless journey into nightmare that, along with greats such as Peeping Tom (1960) and Rear Window (1954) asks direct questions of the viewer concerning the voyeurism that is at the heart of cinema as an art form.

Like George Sluizer before him, who went to the US in 1993 to remake his marvellous Spoorloos (1988) as The Vanishing, Haneke here presents an American take on his own original, with an all-new cast and in English. However, Haneke’s second effort differs from Sluizer’s in that it is (i) identical to his first film shot-for-shot and (ii) it’s infinitely better made.

So, does the director’s decision render watching the new film pointless if you’ve seen the original, or vice versa? Perhaps those who ask such a question should first check out Gus van Sant’s 1998 remake of Psycho (1960) – the notable director (Good Will Hunting (1997) Elephant (2003)) also went for a near frame-for-frame homage – to find out for themselves if the approach does anything for them.

Whatever your take on the debate, this is still a rightful tenant of the genuine badlands of the human psyche – a horror film that does not mess about. Ann (Naomi Watts) and George (Tim Roth) arrive at their vacation home ready to enjoy some golf and sailing with their son Georgie (Devon Gearhart). As Anne is unpacking groceries, she is confronted by two young men, Peter (Brady Corbet) and Paul (Michael Pitt) dressed in golf clothes, wearing white gloves. At first happy to help with their request for eggs, Ann quickly realises that things are very far from normal when the two boys’ attitude turns antagonistic, then far, far worse. ‘Funny’ games are definitely not on the menu…

Unnerving calmness combined with wanton cruelty is the key characteristic of the assailants’ performances, with solid, terror-struck turns from Watts and Roth. The film’s real achievement, however, is the undermining of an audience’s customary complicity – in Haneke’s film, we are forced to identify not so much with the victims but rather with their all-powerful attackers. Peter and Paul are performing for us, a point underlined by the characters’ frequent questions direct to camera: they’re appeasing our blood-lust, our desire to witness the worst that can happen to other people. After all, why else would we want to see such a film? Ask yourself the same question before you watch – love it or hate it, this will not leave you unmoved.

112 mins.