A Reaction: "The Dreamers"
SPOILER ALERT! Are there any more exclusive words on the Internet? Those words have actual consequences, unlike "Only 18 and over enter!" So proceed, only ye who have seen the damn movie.
Aah, the perfect diss. Try and try as the earnest artist might, the world belongs to the dissers. It's like Eminem and Kobe Bryant having a rap battle. Kobe'd probably spend the whole time talking about how he's misunderstood. Eminem would ask if no means yes in Italian.
The perfect diss somehow elevates the disser from mere reacter to a position superior to the creator. Of course, Eminem creates his own testimonial-rap so he's no mere disser. Those who are mere dissers and get paid to do it, well, they're critics.
"The American deigns to mount haughty Isabelle on the kitchen floor while sour Theo makes an omelet, and outside in the street . . . the Revolution!"And thus, J. Hoberman of the Village Voice voids "The Dreamers," Bertolucci's latest effort. Just voids the shit out of it. Never mind that Bertolucci and his company navigated the waters of international financing to bring a vision of the old master's youth to the screen, no mean feat. Hoberman doesn't care. And the filmmaker is left with a wedgie, king of the hill of the smoldering Everest of dissed attempts at (self) expression, (self) importance. Critic has fulfilled the role of bully of the intellectual playground (oh, the metaphor continues!). See this, that sucks, listen to me . . . Movie criticism's stupid anyway, and it's been that way since it went from discussion group to marketing tool. So here, as so many on the Internet have tried, is a new Cahiers where discussion of film is primary.
So yah, "The Dreamers." All the advance press made it impossible to be shocked or surprised by not only the sex, but importantly, how the sex was used. Going in, I knew they'd be in the apartment for waay too long, and there'd be psychosex. And I hadn't even tried to find naked pictures of what the movie was about.
Which left, thankfully, the rest of the fucking film. Which was about film and sex. Ok, so first: film.
Oh those crazy Europeans. Those crazy, uninhibited, play-gay Europeans. Only they would actually act out scenes from famous movies, a life-as-performance attitude in line with some stereotypical version of the European, or at least the foreign. (Who invented karaoke? It wasn't the Americans, folks.) Between "European or gay" choice and "theater equals play-gay," then Europeans are theatrical. And gay. QED.
Acting out film scenes? Actually acting them out? No American would dare. Yah, some do, but they're lined up outside a movie theater for the opening of Star Wars Episode III and they're reading this on wi-fi, but only if they're not charging light saber batteries. Which, needless to say, is most of the time.
No, Americans don't act shit out. The break from purported "realness" is too much for the average American. Anecdotal evidence: me acting out a scene the 1990 Charlie Sheen classic "Navy Seals" in jr. high during lunchtime. The scene: Charlie Sheen, on the verge of the prototypical bar fight, instead opts to grab his adversary and, to everyone's surprise, dip him. American standards of personal space and manliness are toyed with. Bar mates laughed, audience laughed, situation successfully defused, Charlie Sheen's unassailable heterosexuality left intact. On the jr. high playground, Gee Kim threatening to squirt his box of fruit juice at me. Tension building, crucial forefinger-thumb distance on Mr. Kim's right hand decreasing, juice bobbing to the top of the bent straw. What do I do? Play Charlie and dip Mr. Kim. What happened? Everyone called me fag and my clean white t-shirt ended up with a pink streak in it, and we don't need to talk about what pink means on a fella. The lesson? The rift between real life and theater is unjumpable. We are not players on a stage of life. Everyone's too busy trying to be playas, at least in jr. high. So Ms. Green's Isabelle character's acting out of scenes from "Queen Christina," Theo acting out "Scarface," went waaay beyond what Americans will allow. Maybe in the 60s that smacked of joie de vivre. But it seems stupid, foreign, clumsy, unabashed, dorky.
The flashes of classic cinema smacked of the same awkward sensibility. But once the viewer sucked down the load of gimmickiness, it became just another tool, one that sometimes worked and sometimes didn't. Example of not working: Isabelle's first words: "New York Herald Tribune." Cut to clip of "Breathless," Jean Seberg yelling out the same words. Um, ok. No. The context was that of reference. The joy of a reference is being in the know, of knowing without having to have it explained. Seeing the original scene from "Breathless" adds nothing, only takes away like a punch line explained. Example of working: Running through the Louvre, our young heroes and heroine re-enact a memorable sequence from "Bande à Part," interspersed with clips from that movie. The kids explained their actions beforehand, so it's not just a reference. Instead, it evoked the pure connection between real life and film that the kids had. Real life is infused with the excitement of film. It is the best example of mundane becoming myth through the movies (3 m's!). Everything else fell somewhere in between. But the idolization of youth, and of youthful ideas and of youthful minds molded by screen myths comes through most perfectly during an afterglow moment between Michael and Isabelle. She purrs, "My first love, my great love," or something to that effect. The first-timer sense is obviously young, but the sense of what it's supposed to be, and feeling like it is exactly that: well there we've got ourselves something that they couldn't quite get in "[insert name of recent Hollywood studio teen-oriented movie here]": the true depiction of youth.
But oh yah, it's about sex too, right? That's what I said before, I think. So yah, she's got huge gams. And where else can you see average-sized penises? Not in porn. Or unshaped pubic hair? Not in porn.
Go see the damn movie. 'Cause it's NC-17. Even if I swore not to have this article be an unwitting marketing tool.
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