Tuesday, February 27, 2007

THE DREAMERS



Movie of the week:
THE DREAMERS

The old joke goes, "If you don't remember the 60's, you were there." It's a reference to the notion that everybody was drugged up during that time. It's a gross exaggeration at best.

People my age remember the 60's with great reverence and awe. You might think it was the time of King Arthur or of the Renaissance. "The music was the best, and things - man, things really seemed to matter." What a load of crap!

I remember the 60's. Maybe I wasn't drugged up enough, but what I remember was great political unrest. I remember the doomsday clock and how ultimate nuclear destruction was a very real and eminent reality that loomed over the landscape to remind us that each day could be our last. I remember that any time someone powerful and influential came along that promised real political and social reform, the hand holding the strings behind the curtain made sure that that person disappeared. I remember the country being torn apart by a huge abyss between the generations - neither side could understand (or even tried to understand) the other. We were so alien to our parents, it was as though we spoke a different language. The 60's weren't a time to wax nostalgic, they were a time to have survived.

And yet .........

I do wax nostalgic about the 60's. After all - they were my formative years. I was young and the world was my oyster. It may have had a lump of crap in it instead of a pearl, but that was alright too. Even though the world may come to an end at any moment, or maybe because of it, life was sweet, and beautiful, and exciting. It was a time for marching in the street. It was a time for revolution, and it wasn't limited to the US. Europe felt it too - especially France.

This is the setting for this week's movie THE DREAMERS - also known as "An American in Paris, ..... Getting it On, and Taking It to the Streets". Matthew, an American college student goes to study for a year in Paris in the late 60's. There he meets a beautiful young woman, Isabelle, and her brother, Theo (are they twins?). They are drawn together by their love of the cinema (they're always going to the movies), and by the fact that they're young and the world is their oyster and that oyster may have a lump of crap inside, instead of a pearl, but so what? It's what the French would call "joie de vivre", the joy of living.

This is a great looking film. Directed by Bernardo Bertolucci, who also made such films as Last Tango in Paris, The Last Emperor, and The "Last" Sheltering Sky (just kidding about the last “Last”). He imbues the film with a dream-like quality that’s almost like a reverential “memory” of the time, in the same way that former flower children remember the 60’s.

I’m sure not everybody will like this film as much as I do. I really don’t care if you do or don’t. I’m just recommending it, and as many of you know, my recommendations need to be taken with a grain of salt. Everybody’s tastes are different, so you must watch it to decide for yourself. I can only tell you why I liked the film. So here are some final thoughts to leave with you.

  1. It has a great soundtrack. It features music from the late 60’s ("The music was the best, and things - man, things really seemed to matter.").
  2. For those Americans who are subtitle impaired, although the story takes place in Paris, and all the characters except for Matthew are French, almost all of the dialog is in English.
  3. Jake Gyllenhaal was initially considered for the role of Matthew but turned it down because of the explicit nature of the nude scenes. And yet he made Brokeback Mountain - go figure. Oh, did I mention there was nudity? No? Silly me.
  4. Leonardo DiCaprio was offered the role of Matthew, but turned it down because he was in pre-production with another movie. Michael Pitt was a good casting choice for Matthew as he evokes a DiCaprio-like persona.
  5. There are many references to classic films throughout the movie. Some are explicit and others are more subtle. Those of you who are becoming film buffs may recognize some of these.
  6. There is a lot of nudity in this film. Not that that’s a bad thing of course, but if that sort of thing bothers you, tough titties (quite literally). No, really, just don’t watch the movie.
  7. If nudity does bother you, do you not ever visit the museum of art? They’re filled with paintings of nudes. For that matter, nudes exist on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel! How is film any less an art form than oils? …….. but I digress.
  8. Would it help you to think of THE DREAMERS as a painting by that great Italian artist, Bernardo Bertolucci? … except that the painting moves around a bit? and talks? and you can watch it from your living room? DaVinci was also Italian. …. and the guy who sculpted the Venus de Milo (actually, I think he was Greek – but I had to mention Venus de Milo at least somewhere in this article because it represents a key scene in the film – worth the price of admission).
  9. “I don't believe in God, but if I did, he would be a black, left-handed guitarist.” – Amen.
  10. What’s it about? Hell if I remember. I was too drugged up at the time.

Film critic Roger Ebert wrote a terrific review of this film. His article gives more insights to the background of the film, as he was in Paris during that period, and because he knows Bertolucci personally. You can read his review here, it's worth a look.

See THE DREAMERS
And enjoy.

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