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March 28, 2007

DVD Journal: The Extras on "The Dreamers"

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

I spent a few hours the other night exploring the extras on the DVD of Bernardo Bertolucci's "The Dreamers" and had a very good time. They aren't extensive, and there's no pressing reason to go out of your way to indulge in them. But I was beguiled anyway.


The DVD's making-of featurette provided many glimpses of the moviemaking process -- as always, my main reaction was "What a lot of work!" -- as well as some documentary reminders of '68 in Paris. The featurette is also a chance to meet the movie's screenwriter, the English novelist/critic Gilbert Adair; the film's classy producer Jeremy Thomas, who has worked with Rafelson, Roeg, and Cronenberg as well as Bertolucci; and to catch up with Bernardo Bertolucci, a one-time enfant terrible (he made "Last Tango" when he was only 31) who these days is looking quite pampered, regal, and rueful.

Adair is the standout on the disc's commentary track. He's an articulate wonder, and he's also the rare writer who got a chance to provide source material for a movie, to write its screenplay, and to stay with the film throughout filming. He's appreciative and shrewd, as well as eager to share what he learned from the process. Unlike many writers, he seems to have no trouble with the idea that a movie might belong to its director. "I always have the novel," he says. Jeremy Thomas is nothing if not a producer, constantly recalling how hard it was to line up money, assemble extras, and obtain locations and permits.

Bertolucci himself is sly, vain, pretentious -- someone who's clearly always the star of his own movie. He's somehow rather likable anyway. He's a courtly mischiefmaker; he retains much of his old sensuality and perversity, but he seems to have learned how to see through much of the era's political fog. He seems mainly to have been concerned with giving his movie a certain kind of fairy-tale reality, as well as a mythical and psychological dimension. For Bertolucci these days, the mythical and the psychological seem to be merging.

It's a very pleasing disc. Even the DVD's menu is a druggy-sexy beauty. I tried to find out who designed it. Remember how, 10-12 years ago, movie titles became very stylish? Think "Se7en," for example. More or less overnight, it became a common experience to find a movie's titles far more intriguing and creative than the movie they adorned. Well, that was a wonderful era in recent design; there were a lot of hot young designers around who for some reason were using movie titles to make their mark. I have a hunch that DVD menu-design might well be a similarly happenin' field these days. But despite my best Googling I was unable to find out who made the menu for "The Dreamers." Drat.

I yakked with Turbokitty about "The Dreamers" here. Short version of my own reaction: The film is lightweight, but it's also hypnotic, dreamy, and sexy. Oldsters with some nostalgia for the glory days of the French cinema and some memory of the '60s will probably enjoy the film's recreations of its period. I was in France a few years after these events, and Bertolucci and his production team have certainly put on film what the era looked like to me. Youngsters may enjoy a glimpse of a quaint, long-ago time when movies meant as much to many people as electronic gadgets and sports do these days, and when exploring sex had a lot of neurotic, poetic, and political overtones.

Also, well, comment dire ...? (That's Euro-snob for "How to say it? ... And aren't I pretty when I strike this pose?") ... Anyway: The film's three leads (Louis Garrel, Eva Green, and Michael Pitt) are absurdly beautiful, and some of their scenes are very hot, if in a languidly decadent, spoiled-stinky-trust-fundy, teeny-porn kind of way. Not that there's anything wrong with that! I've always found rich-hippie style very sexy.

Amazon is selling the disc for $4.95. How to resist?

A few other postings about dreamy-trashy-arty-sexy movies: here, here, here, here, here. A few postings about movies-on-DVDs with extras that I found genuinely educational: here, here. A posting about the excellent Gilbert Adair novel that "The Dreamers" is based on is here. I yakked a bit about Bertolucci's wonderful and influential "The Conformist" here. A lot of Eva Green NSFWishness can be enjoyed here.



posted by Michael at March 28, 2007


What are these kids, 17-18 years old? How can you take their posturing seriously?

Posted by: ricpic on March 28, 2007 7:46 PM

I saw the Dreamers on your recommendation and concur, it delivers a sexiness that's hard to find elsewhere. Usually, when you have a film with three characters that have their heads all the way up their asses, it causes problems. Here, while true, we just don't care, because they're pretty!

And thanks for re-listing your sexy film picks. I just discovered two things:

1) Public libraries now have a lot of DVDs
2) You can order them on-line, searching system wide, and then pick them up in one central location.

So, for instance, I ordered Good Bye Lenin!, Cache, Punch Drunk Love, Ghost in the Shell, and Galaxy Quest -- from five different Boston libraries. I let them all gather in a pile at the branch close to me, then I swoop in and pick it up. One week rentals, instant on-line renewal, and 10 cent late charges.

Yeah, this is old school, but whoa... if you're cheap and like arty films and PBS documentaries, you just hit the jackpot.

The Holzbachian

P.S. Breillat is a mind blowing director as well. But maybe not in a good way. I feel like seeing her films has poisoned one 1 millionth of my soul. She shows the side of sex that no one talks about, the dark, icky undercurrent that's as likely to destroy as redeem you. Good lord, how un-American. But, I'm glad I found her. I was tired of being told in American films how sex was, wow, just great! Like a chocolate cake, only better! How diminishing...

Posted by: The Holzbachian on March 28, 2007 7:56 PM

Ricpic -- I certainly can't take their posturing seriously! (Although I certainly took my own at that age at least that seriously.) They're just kids. Doesn't stop me from finding them and the film sexy, though ...

Holzbachian -- I'm looking forward to your reactions to your latest stack of library rentals. And you're right, there is something evil in a good (no bad, no good, no bad...) kind of way about Breillat, isn't there? I suspect I wouldn't enjoy being married to her, but I'm glad she's making movies.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on March 28, 2007 8:18 PM

I'll wager James Bond ain't your thing, but Eva Green looks pretty smokin' in Casino Royale.

Posted by: Bryan on March 29, 2007 12:12 PM

I love Eva Green. I think she's actually a smokin' good actress as well as all the other obvious stuff.

But the "American" was badly cast in this. He looked like he just arrived from California circa 1925. In '68 Southern Cal was fairly hip as i recall.

I remember living in Paris at that age and seeing cool relaxed American kids with Ray Bans. That's what he should have looked like.

Posted by: Murphy on March 29, 2007 3:41 PM

I'd like to go off-topic and discuss something you mentioned: the artsiness of movie titles. It occurs to me that there are these 'hidden arts' like graphic and industrial design that are not studied academically but nonetheless have a lot of aesthetic and creative energy going into them and mark periods much more surely than paintings. (Look at the way a 50s radio or toaster suggests the period, or the way you can guess a book's decade of printing by the typeface of its title.) I wonder if anyone has studied them and written histories...?

Posted by: SFG on March 31, 2007 8:07 PM

SFG: Some guy named 21stCenturyRumBoon has been putting Saul Bass title sequences on Youtube. You can start with the very spooky Seconds and work your way around from there.

The biggest credit-to-film quality gap I know of is the 1996 version of Island Of Dr. Moreau. The credits are stupendously cool, and the film is beyond awful.

Posted by: Brian on April 1, 2007 4:01 PM

I saw the Dreamers, watched the whole thing, decided I hated everyone in it and everything it stood for (in particular the idiot parents who gave money to the childlings so they could continue their frolics....ugh, ugh, ugh, yuck) and yet, can remember every single bit of it.

So, I disapprove, can't imagine anything else but a wrinkling of the nose in disgust at the little heathens, but I appreciate the art. Because, surely, it was artful. It was definitely artful.

*Haven't meant to be away so long. And, I am finally leaving the big H :)

Posted by: MD on April 2, 2007 5:31 PM

Oh, and the fact that I reacted so negatively, and watched mesmerized, means I think it was good as narrative. Just can't stand any of what it is supposed to mean. What is it supposed to mean? I know that makes no sense, but making sense is over-rated.

Posted by: MD on April 2, 2007 5:33 PM

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