Bernardo Bertolucci is one of the great masters of cinema, but he has rarely found film stories and/or scripts equal to his genius. There are passages in almost all of his films as extraordinary as any in the history of movies, but he has made more bad movies than almost any other important director. The Dreamers is one the most misguided of his misses — a stilted, inauthentic evocation of the Sixties stifled by the nostalgia of old men for their youth (the movie is based on a novel by a guy who, like Bertolucci, was a young man in the Sixties.) Indeed, nostalgia is too strong a word for it, since nostalgia implies
at least a trace of yearning, of passion — and this movie is basically a smug intellectual appreciation of the Sixties, and of youth, disguised as a drama.
There’s lots of sex and nudity — almost no real sensuality or erotic joy. And kids in the Sixties never talked the way the kids talk in this movie — not even the ones who were intellectual film buffs. The Sixties rock songs on the soundtrack and the intercut clips from films of the French New Wave, especially those by Godard, still seem fresh and alive — almost mocking the tired vision of the screenwriter and director. There are great visual passages in the film, and Bertolucci’s director’s commentary is brilliant — indeed, the film
is best seen as a pale and unconvincing illustration of that commentary.