May 1968. Paris is about to explode. Moving at the periphery of events that made whathappened at the same time in the States look like a mild-mannered debate are our threecharacters. American student Michael Pitt is a film buff, religiously attending the screenings atthe Cinémathèque Française. When that institution is closed (an event that helps ignite thepolitical powderkeg), Pitt falls in with two fellow buffs: twin siblings Eva Green and LouisGarrel. When the twins’ parents lea…e the apartment for a month, Pitt is invited to stay, and whatfollows is a claustrophobic series of sex games. The trio rarely venture outside, are only vaguelyconscious of what is going on out there, but sooner or later the real world will come crashingthrough into their retreat.
A love-letter to cinema and a meditation on the delusions of idealism and politics, the filmhas a bit more on its mind than a Larry Clark-like obsession with ogling barely-legal naked flesh.That said, Bertolucci’s camera is extremely voyeuristic, and I’m not sure that the script’sexplicit acknowledgement of this fact makes for an entirely convincing philosophical stance. Thesex scenes are far more interesting and convincingly staged than in most other films, and theperformances are first-rate. Pitt handles his character’s arc from naive shyness to greaterknowledge and maturity with great aplomb. I’m of two minds as to whether the story and itsthemes hang together, but the result is undeniably intriguing.
The film is largely dialogue-driven, and the isolation of the characters means that surroundopportunities are limited. Good use is made of the chances that do arise, however, and the riotscenes are very effective. The dialogue is crisp and buzz-free. There is also some nice left-rightseparation as we hear distant sirens travel from one speaker to the other.
The 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer represents a sterling effort. There is no grain oredge enhancement. Colours and contrasts are excellent, as are the blacks. The night scenes workvery well, and the pictorial beauty of Paris is expertly captured even as the look remains grittilyreal.
The commentary track is made up separately recorded musings by Bertolucci, writer GilbertAdair and producer Jeremy Thomas. All three men are very thoughtful, and have as much to sayabout the film’s context as they do about the movie itself. For viewers unfamiliar with what wasgoing on in Paris at this time, “Outside the Window: Events in France, May 1968” will provevery helpful. “Bertolucci Makes The Dreamers” is a BBC-produced making-of feature,and is much more solid than most other examples of its kind. “Hey Joe” is a music video directedby Bertolucci (performed by “Michael Pitt and the Twins of Evil” — get it?). The trailer andteaser are present, as is the trailer for Garden State. The menu’s main screen, intro andtransition to the feature are animated and scored.
Whether or not one view the film as an unqualified success, what is undisputable is thatBertolucci remains a vital filmmaker.
Special Features List
- Audio Commentary
- “Bertolucci Makes the Dreamers” Documentary
- “Outside the Window: Events in France, May 1968” Featurette
- “Hey Joe” Music Video
- Theatrical Trailer and Teaser