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Bernardo Bertolucci directed The Dreamers, in which Michael Pitt is Matthew, a young American in Paris during the student uprising of 1968. In his hotel room, Matthew demonstrates what a spontaneous guy he is by walking across the bed to get to the bathroom, where he pees in the sink, or at least that’s how it looks. Maybe this is the normal plumbing. Perhaps French urinals are actually elevated far from the floor, and I’m just an unsophisticated hick.

Matthew meets brother-and-sister twins who, like him, are ferocious cinephiles. Theo and Isabelle are both, it goes without saying, beautiful, as well as exquisitely bilingual. They habitually act out scenes from classic films, which are also intercut into this one. Some critics believe this is too artsy-fartsy, but I think it’s swell.

The twins invite Matthew home for dinner with their parents. Favorite scene: During the meal, the guest goes into quite a lovely and original acid-like rap about how things all fit together.

Theo despises his father for not supporting the student activists. But the father says, “Poets don’t sign petitions, they sign poems.” As soon as the parents leave the room, Isabelle turns off the overhead light, and lights candles. She teases Matthew with some Freudian nonsense, saying, “This” (measuring her brother’s nose) “is double the length of this” (measuring Matthew’s nose). Is it innocent silliness, or is she baiting him with a reference to the popular myth that the size of the nose reflects the size of the penis? She kisses Matthew lightly, and something tricky happens with the visual as he pulls her back for another kiss.

This apartment must be enormous. Theo leads Matthew through a maze of rooms and hallways, to a room where he’ll spend the night. Again, he pees in the sink. This time, there’s no doubt, because somebody’s toothbrush takes a hit.

The parents leave on vacation and Matthew stays on. The following weeks are filled with complicated head-trips and sensual exploration, as he falls in love with both of the twins. Theo and Isabelle are very kissy and huggy with each other, and go around the house undressed, and share their bathroom doings, and even sleep together naked. (This film has so many hot spots, there’s bound to be one that does it for you.) Speaking to Matthew of his sister, Theo says, “We’re Siamese twins, joined here,” as he taps his head.

They dare Matthew to duplicate the race through the Louvre from Godard’s Bande à Part. “This is a test,” Isabelle says. Matthew passes, and on the way home they reprise the chant from Freaks, “We accept him, one of us.” Intercut of course with footage from Todd Browning’s classic film.

For losing one of the film challenges, Isabelle orders her brother to masturbate over a picture of Marlene Dietrich, as she has secretly witnessed. “I want you to do it the way you did it when you thought no one was watching,” she says. To Matthew’s stunned astonishment, Theo falls to his knees and obeys his sister.

Theo acts the death scene from Scarface, which the others don’t guess, so as a penalty Isabelle and Matthew have to make love on the kitchen floor. Lots of naked Michael Pitt here, dick and all. Theo pretends nonchalance. He’s at the stove cooking eggs while they go at it. As it turns out, Isabelle was a virgin, and discovering the amazing amount of blood, Matthew smears it over her face and neck. She cries. Then they’re making it somewhere else, she’s calling him “My first love, my great love.”

They run out of food and Theo goes outside wearing only a green jacket with nothing on his bottom half. Apparently there’s a convenient market, just downstairs, for he roots around in some garbage cans. Students are painting slogans on the columns of venerable buildings. Theo and Matthew have an argument over Vietnam, and also over the ethics of filmmaking as voyeurism. One of them says, “Films are crimes and filmmakers are criminals” or something to that effect.

Most unbelievable scene: Communally bathing in a regulation-size tub, somehow they all manage to fall asleep. Of course their political activism has ceased; the three of them are just wrapped up in their exclusive world of weirdness. Matthew points this out to Theo, who displays a glowing statue of Mao in his room, and is supposed to be such a fierce dissenter. Theo’s friends also scold him, for withdrawing into the private domain.

When Matthew fails to answer a film quiz, the twins strip him down, demanding to shave his pubic hair as a penalty. He refuses. Beginning to suspect that the bond between the twins might be a bit sick, he asks Isabelle out on a date without Theo, and they apparently have a great time – at, of course, a movie. But when they get home, Isabelle hears the sounds of her brother in bed with another woman. She cries, attacks Matthew, and generally freaks out.

Later, Isabelle reverts to childhood and erects a makeshift tent, bringing the two men to sleep inside it, with her between them. While Matthew sleeps, she repeatedly begs assurance from her twin brother that their love will last forever.

The parents return to find the place a huge mess. They write another check, and creep away. Question: since the mom leaves the check in a place where, finding it, the young people will surely understand that their triple naked slumber has been observed, why do the parents bother to tiptoe around?

Isabelle wakes up first and knows what her parents saw. So she hooks up a hose to the gas line, and drags it back into the tent, intending, I suppose, to kill all three of them. Question: Why does a 3rd-story Parisian apartment just happen to have a 50-foot garden hose lying around in its kitchen?

Now there’s footage from some classic, where a woman rolls down a hill, wanting to go into the river and drown, but stops at the edge. In the black and white film, this unfortunate creature climbs back up the incline and tries again. A window shatters. Isabelle says, “The street came flying into the room,” which is a great line, but they’re hella far up in the building, for chrissake. The trio goes outside and joins the protesting throng that surges through the streets toward some strategic destination. Even though they are latecomers, they arrive just in time for Theo to pitch the first Molotov cocktail. Matthew begs Isabelle to hang back in relative safety, but she forsakes him and runs off into the violence, hand in hand with her twin.

The police charge, in a horrible cartoon-like endless wave which is really quite apocalyptic. The police and the rioters outside contrast with the self-absorbed little universe the three young people had inhabited. This looks very much like an homage to a scene near the end of In the Realm of the Senses, where rank after rank of marching soldiers emphasize the divide between the real world and the enclosed, obsessive world of the two lovers. The movie ends up with Edith Piaf on the sound track: “Je ne regrette rien” – “No, I regret nothing.”

What else is there to like about The Dreamers? Dylan’s “Queen Jane” is part of the sound track. Isabelle, wearing long black gloves and with a sheet wrapped around her hips, appears against a black background, looking like Venus de Milo – only much slimmer and more toned. She does have the most amazing breasts, and we get to see them plenty, throughout the film. Trivia: Jake Gyllenhaal was originally up for the part of Matthew, but didn’t care for all the nakedness the script called for, so we got Michael Pitt instead.

Related: the “filmmakers as voyeur theme” – see Harrison’s Flowers

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Under the credits, it’s a day in the life of a street kid – sleeping, eating, panhandling, running away with something he stole.

Michael Pitt is Toby, self-described as not as homeless, but “moving around right now.” Steve Buscemi is Les, self-described as a “licensed professional photojournalist,” or what most people would call a paparazzo. He accepts Toby as an unpaid gofer in return for a place to crash. Toby can not only fix things, but take notes and elbow rival paparazzi out of the way. He makes himself nearly indispensable.

The photographer and his assistant go to a wickedly satirical benefit for STD sufferers, where Toby meets a soap opera casting director, and things are set in motion for his apotheosis. They visit Les’s parents, who are archetypal “get a real job” old folks at home, only nastier than some. You see why Les became how he is. In fact, you see a lot of things. It’s funny, how much can be illuminated by “black humor.”

There are plenty of synopses of Delirious available online, including writer/director Tom DiCillo’s own. He’s an independent who has not only made other films of his own, but filled such noteworthy roles as cinematographer for Jim Jarmusch’s Stranger Than Paradise.

Delirious was shot in only 25 days and has won a bunch of awards, and some viewers find it funnier than others. Stephen Holden, for instance says,

…you leave the movie feeling as though you have gazed into a closed circle of hell where everybody feeds off everyone else until there is nothing left.

Toby gets famous overnight, acting the part of a homeless serial killer (who, presumably, only kills really scummy bad guys.) In one scene he dallies in a sylvan setting with a lovely young thing who says, “You’ve taught me so much about being homeless….” which is a priceless line.

The beating heart of this film is the relationship between the two men. They are mentor and protégé, master and novice, benefactor and charity-seeker, but they are also friends. The big irony is, when Toby first moves in, Les keeps wanting reassurance that his house guest isn’t gay. And he isn’t. But by the end, Les is feeling, thinking, and acting like a jealous lover. His elaborate, handcrafted revenge plot is pure hysterical over-wrought stagy queen – only he doesn’t know it.

In an interview conducted by Paulington James Christensen III, DiCillo said this about Les:

I just wanted to make this about a guy who is so isolated as a human being. He is so twisted, so crippled by what his life had done to him.

In an interview with Gary Goldstein, he said:

I love characters that have desperate qualities about them, but then other things that make them human…. I wanted people to see that Les was damaged–and that every one of us, in our own way, has some form of that damage.

Don’t miss the short scene after the end credits.


RECOMMENDED: great satirical videos about marketing, etc. – start at #2

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It’s a freakin’ masterpiece. The more I listen to the music and rerun parts of Hedwig and the Angry Inch in my mind, and put things together, the more I come to the conclusion that it really is a great movie and I’m right to adore it.

As Hedwig, John Cameron Mitchell is phenomenal.

Michael Pitt plays Hedwig’s lost love and professional rival. When he was asked to audition for the movie, he hadn’t seen the stage production, so they took him. He was, in his words, “blown away,” and made sure to attend the few remaining performances. Which would be the reaction of any intelligent actor, given a chance to try out for Tommy Gnosis. Additionally, Pitt endured the actor’s hell of multiple auditions. Mitchell looked at him four or five times, he says, before offering him the role. Pitt told Movement magazine,

They let me in on something really incredible. It was a blessing. It’s a movie like…you don’t see. It’s something that’s completely new. It’s pure, it’s really pure.

In the movie version, and probably in the stage version, though I don’t know for sure, the song “The Origin of Love” is accompanied by a very cool animated film that portrays a creation myth said to be based on Plato’s Symposium.

In his novel, Wakefield, Andrei Codrescu expressed much the same thought:

God, you’ll remember, didn’t want any competition from his creation, so he split up Adam and Eve in order that the separated halves might compete with each other leaving Him the absolute boss.

I’m not a heavy linker, but I did take some time looking for the best versions of some parts of this movie, as excerpted by various YouTube patrons. The results:

Wig in a Box
“This is the best way that I’ve found
to be the best you’ve ever seen.”
An exceptionally inspirational song.

Midnight Radio
Play this 7 minutes for me when I’m dying, and I’ll either recover quick or go out extremely happy.

Wicked Little Town
Have I mentioned that I heart Michael Pitt?


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