After all, an orgasm is better than a bomb," quipped relieved director Bernardo Bertolucci about the release of an uncut version of his highly provocative film to U.S. audiences, despite its big fat NC-17 rating. Just how raunchy is The Dreamers, you might ask? Nonstop nudity and frequent explicit sex scenes make this film tough to bear for the overly sensitive. Bertolucci, of Last Tango in Paris fame, returns to his beloved City of Lights to once again show steamy sex between people not quite ready to face the real world.
The film, an adaptation of Gilbert Adair's novel The Holy Innocents, is set in 1968 Paris -- when student protesters took to the streets and the cultural revolution was at its peak. Matthew (Michael Pitt) is an American exchange student seduced by the contagious revolutionary spirit, by the movies playing at the Cin‚mathŠque Fran‡aise and lastly by the stunning Isabelle (Eva Green). When Isabelle's parents depart for a month-long vacation, she and her twin brother Theo (Louis Garrel), invite the wide-eyed Matthew to move from his dingy hotel room into their plush apartment, a setting that becomes a sexual playground for the three. Matthew soon discovers that the relationship between the siblings is dangerously ambiguous. Nevertheless, the three become inseparable, bonding during their film viewings and fervent discussions of politics and pop culture. (Chaplin or Keaton? Hendrix or Clapton?).
The movie itself deals with some very controversial topics, including voyeurism and incest, as Matthew becomes ensnared in the twins' perverted mind games. We see the definitions between sex and politics blend and evaporate as sex becomes a political act and political discussions become sexually charged. Bertolucci has crafted a sweetly nostalgic but twisted coming-of-age story that is meant to provoke at every turn, resulting in a breath of fresh air from an experienced director at the top of his game. One minor flaw is a contrite ending that is too quick to cap off the many themes that the movie elaborately introduced.