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Volume 72, Issue 97, Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Life & Arts

An attractive facade on the revolution

Funky French film hallmarks social changes, idealism, art of the 1960s -- and sex

The Daily Cougar

Nominated for a European Film Award and based on the Gilbert Adair's novel of the same name, 2003's Les Innocents (which translates loosely as The Dreamers) comes from celebrated Italian auteur Bernardo Bertolucci, who is famous for infusing religion (or lack thereof) and Marxist principles into his highly symbolic works.

Set amid the volatility of 1968 Paris, an American student named Matthew (Michael Pitt) takes up residence with a pair of twin "cinema-philes" Isabelle and Théo (Eva Green and Louis Garrel, respectively) who are practically joined at the head. During the relatively brief relationship, the kids spend the majority of their time pretending to care about ubiquitous political theory and music, playing perverted movie-trivia games and running through the Louvre.

The twins are memorable for their relationship. In their flat, narcissism (Théodore means "gift from God" and Isabelle is shown reading a book titled Isabelle) plus twins equals incest -- or intimacy that seems to go beyond the realm of brother and sister. Nothing of the sort actually takes place on screen, but it is not the sort of thing one would easily put past them. Fully grown, they sleep in the same bed, seek a partner they can share and give each other encouragement, for lack of more appropriate phrasing.

The opening of the film sets a groovy 1960's, hedonistic kind of mood with Jimi Hendrix's "Third Stone From the Sun." Though the film is French in most aspects, much of the soundtrack strikes an American chord, featuring the likes of Janis Joplin, The Doors and the Steve Miller Band, all of whom take you to that progressive and hip time and place.

American audiences should also be glad to know that most of the dialogue is in English so they won't be left in the dark for too long. 

Every step of the way, the techniques employed by Bertolucci parallel the themes he decides to explore. For example, the twins are raised by a famous poet -- in essence, their life is one heavily influenced by art and everything aesthetic. In the house of love, art actually imitates life, and Théo and Isabelle seem to prefer to live in a world where images reign supreme and idealism is incredibly seductive. One shot features a mimic of a famous painting of the French Revolution where Marilyn Monroe is painted over the original waving red flag, which brings together all these ideas of France, life, art, chaos, America and superficiality.

The entire film seems to revel in all that is perverted, progressive and phallic. By setting his bizarre love story in such a dramatic time in history, perhaps Bertolucci uses Les Innocents to launch a retort against the War on Cinematic Wantonness.

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