Picks and Pans Review: The Dreamers

updated 02/23/2004 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 02/23/2004 AT 01:00 AM EST

Michael Pitt, Eva Green, Louis Garrel

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Bernardo Bertolucci's film, both an homage to the innovative movies of the '60s French New Wave and an intimate exploration of an incestuous menage à trois, is an intense but unstable mix of sumptuous eroticism and youthful nostalgia. The movie draws you in with a shadowy beauty—most of the story unfolds (and disrobes) in the dim confines of a vast Paris apartment—and this atmosphere deepens until the air is claustrophobic and damp, as if lingerie were drying on every radiator. But director Bertolucci, best known for the '73 kinkathon Last Tango in Paris, keeps yanking us out of this erotic dream with clips from classics like 1959's Breathless. It's New Wave channel surfing.

Pitt, who looks like Leonardo DiCaprio with collagen lips, plays an American new to Paris in 1968. He spends most of his time at the Cinémathèque, where cineasts devour films with an enthusiasm bordering on lust. There he befriends a brother and sister, Theo and Isabelle. He soon moves in with them and shares in decadent games involving sexual dares and movie trivia. The three young stars are all good—and bravely nude—but Green is best as enigmatic Isabelle: Exposing her body with a look that communicates either defiance or indifference, she recalls the fire-and-ice majesty of the greatest French actress of the '60s, Jeanne Moreau. (NC-17)

DRAMA

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