Archive for August 13, 2020

Paris when it Sizzles

Posted in FILM, literature, MUSIC, Politics with tags , , , , , , on August 13, 2020 by dcairns

I’m not sure why I held back on immediately seeing Bertolucci’s THE DREAMERS when it was new, but I know I got a bad report of it from my friend and yours David Melville Wingrove, which may have put me off. David adores the book, The Holy Innocents, and felt the film betrayed it completely. Since writing the novel, Gilbert Adair had taken an odd turn, and agreed to adapt it to the screen only if he could make certain changes. Then Bertolucci seems to have developed cold feet about the gay content and pruned that right back.

I’m not sure if those changes constitute a total betrayal of the book, but they don’t help it. The wad of VO at the beginning is anti-cinematic in the extreme. I love narration but this one is pure info-dump and things improve immeasurably when it goes away. The ending is a return to the plodding and literal as our hero makes a speech against violence to his chums during the ’68 riots. In reality, Adair was right in there throwing rocks at les gendarmes. I don’t disagree with the anti-violence stance, but it doesn’t work as an ending: it doesn’t relate to the film before it. And it utterly lacks the poetry Bertolucci once brought to his endings — the time twists of THE SPIDER’S STRATAGEM, 1900 and THE LAST EMPEROR, for instance, could have worked wonderfully here, since it’s a film that’s about THEN but wants to be relevant to NOW. In particular, the end of THE SHELTERING SKY, bringing in the author to quote from his work, might have worked better here than it did there.

If this had been an original work, I supposed we’d have been impressed by the sexual daring, but although it’s pretty explicit, it’s inescapably a conservative, heterosexual dilution of the source.

I liked the actors — Michael Pitt is saddled with the worst material but he’s good in the role and Eva Green is a delight with her facial expressions going all over the place — nobody’s told her you’re not supposed to do that in the film and the result is she’s lively the way film actors usually aren’t — Louis Garrel is very cool. The parents had too much screen time and I wished the kids’ arguments could be smarter. Chaplin vs. Keaton and Clapton vs. Hendrix — I guess a lot of sixties cultural arguments WERE like that, but here’s a case where rose-tinted glasses could have made the film more intellectually stimulating…