with Michael Pitt, Louis Garrel, Eva Green
Directed by Bernardo Bertolucci
Written by Gilbert Adair
(Fox Home Entertainment)
by Mike Delano
If you can forget the film’s flimsy political messages and all the blab about director Bernardo Bertolucci’s filmography, out comes a flick that can actually be enjoyed outside a film nerd convention. Sure, there’s more than enough intercut footage of classic films and obscure references to appease the nerds forever regressing to le golden age de “sin-eh-mah,” but the meat here is a worthwhile yarn about a boy/girl pair of fucked-up Frenchies who get their world blown apart by a seemingly naïve American.
It’s Paris in the late ’60s and timid American Matthew (Michael Pitt) is across the pond studying French, but his real obsession is film. He meets Theo (Louis Garrel) and Isabelle (Eva Green), a brother and sister who share his passion, but take their love of the movies to an all-consuming, delusional level. Matthew is intrigued by their carefree ways and a little weirded-out by their devotion to each other, but basically signs on as the wide-eyed puppy to the seeming wisdom behind their eccentric ways.
Matthew turns the tables quickly enough, however, and when he does, it’s with the force of a brick smashing through a window. The bro and sis aren’t ready for the world he tries to show them, the one outside of each other and their embryonic self-created movie world. For them, movies aren’t a window to the world; they’re a wall protecting them from it. And when the political upheaval on the streets of Paris eventually causes that wall to crumble, it likewise melts the bonds of the three, right there on the streets of the world that they can’t hide from any longer.
The film got an NC-17 rating – and the accompanying hype – for its languid male and female nudity. But make no mistake, this story couldn’t’ve been told with a fraction of its power without an unwavering director and a cast willing to contribute very physical performances to a movie whose conflicts lie mostly in the brain. Forget actors and actresses with no-nudity clauses and the mound of modern-day filmmakers catering to their (and society’s) insistence on antiseptic coming of age tales. Before the walls crumble, Matthew, Theo, and Isabelle build up enough heat and energy between them to make their dream world very real. Isn’t that the point?