I watched The Dreamers a couple of days ago and really loved it. It's funny, because I struggled a bit with admitting that I'd seen it because of the stigma attached to the NC-17 rating. Shortbus had a whole lot more sex in it, and I've seen many, many films with more graphic violence than there was sex in this film. But Shortbus was unrated and, well, graphic violence is somehow more acceptable in this culture. I should really get over it.
Because the truth is that The Dreamers is really an excellent film. It tackles themes in a number of areas: history, sexuality, psychology, youth culture... I don't really know that I can talk intelligently about it having only seen it once. So, similar to my post on Vietnam War films, I'll just talk about random things that I liked.
-Certainly the near-incestuous dependence the twins had on each other could merit a long discussion in and of itself. I liked this twist- especially because their relationship was near-incestuous, never having been consummated. It is an exaggeration of other similar types of unhealthy sibling relationships, but it can still be compared and contrasted with them because, quite simply, incetuous sex would have put their relationship in an entirely different category. I like that Matthew calls them on this unhealthy behavior. He has been caught up in it, but at the end of the movie, he has to extract himself from their world for the sake of his own sanity. And yet he does find himself caught up in it. What is the attraction? Given the political upheaval going on outside the apartment, given Matthew's difficulty fitting in to a different culture, and given his excessive (almost incestuous, perhaps?) love of film, it is easy to understand why the very small world of Theo and Isabelle would be compelling.
-I loved the ending. Suicide would have been too typical, to easy. I read at least one review where Bertolucci is accused of artifice because of it- it is too sudden and jarring a way to bring the two realities- in and out of the apartment- together. But I think that its abrupt nature is what makes it so wonderful- the real world is so loud, and colorful, and full of stimulus- it is real, in fact. And the way the three protagonists react to it is so very telling. Being a peacenik myself, I believe that Matthew is correct in that the way to solve problems is through peace and love- this is the hard and unglamourous way. But violence seems romantic to Theo, so he rushes in, having had no real connection with what's going on to this point, moving himself from one fantasy to another. Isabelle refuses even to change fantasies, sticking with her brother even though she sensed, if ever slightly, a different kind of freedom with Matthew.
There is really a lot more to explore in The Dreamers. I wish I'd had more of a frame of reference when the three were talking film. I recognized only two of the clips (Breathless and Freaks), but it really sparked my interest in French New Wave. As a result, I currently have on hold at the library Shoot the Piano Player (which I've been meaning to watch since it's been talked about so much on your blogs), Mouchette (which was one of the films referenced in The Dreamers), Pierrot le Fou (I'm willing to give Godard another try), and Jules and Jim (having heard of it via Brandon's review some time ago). Because of course- wrapped in history and narrative though it may be- at its core, The Dreamers is a love letter to film, particularly film of a specific era, and that love comes through clearly and beautifully.
John, I'm sorry to hear about your friend. I actually had an adolescence completely different from the both of you, but I can still certainly relate to that unique kind of closeness that you really only can experience at that age. We don't expose ourselves to each other as adults as much as we did as teenagers. And I think we're poorer because if it.
Brandon, I didn't read the spoilers, but I'm glad you wrote about TS3 so positively. I was convinced that simply by being a "3" it wasn't going to be as good. I'd hate to have waited to see it at home and missed out on a real treat. I'll have to get the family together myself and go to the cinema.