By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published Feb 20, 2004 at 5:12 AM

{image1}While 1960s Paris rages outside, the three young characters in Bernardo Bertolucci's new picture, "The Dreamers," seem to live on another planet. Despite their voyeuristic tendencies, these three rarely look outside the insular little world they've created, often spontaneously quoting from films, both classic and not-so.

As one would expect from any Bertolucci film, "The Dreamers" is lovely to behold. Paris is as gritty and alluring as ever and each of the characters pretty in her or his own way. The colors are magical, perhaps like the mood of Europe in the 1960s when change was in the air blowing empowerment into the hands of young people.

American college student Matthew (Michael Pitt, who looks a little like Leonardo DiCaprio and was also seen in "Hedwig and the Angry Inch") is studying in Paris and spends his time watching films at a beloved cinema, alongside the youthful intelligentsia. Otherwise, he seems to spend time in his hotel room crafting letters to his mother.

At a demonstration over the sacking of the cinema's director, he meets beautiful Danielle (Eva Green) and, then, her dark-haired brother Guillaume (Louis Garrel) and his first close friendship in Paris begins. When their parents leave town, Danielle and Guillaume invite Matthew to stay in their rambling old apartment full of books (dad's a poet, you see).

Matthew suspects there is something not altogether kosher going on between brother and sister -- and perhaps their parents do, too -- but he is enamored of them both and so he sticks around. Soon enough, he's brought into their voyeuristic and sadistic games -- often sexual in nature -- and they are only egged on by his naivete.

Guillaume, especially, is wound up by leftist politics and the allure of the protest movement, although he doesn't much like it when Matthew demands to know why he isn't out on the barricades. How can he rectify his rhetoric with his inertia?

Reviewers have been harsh to "The Dreamers," written by Gilbert Adair, and many viewers will have expectations based on its rare NC-17 rating (this is definitely not for young viewers). But despite its flaws (sure, it's a little self-indulgent and a bit tepid in its depiction of the vibrant '60s and some of what goes on between the three is questionable, to say the least) the film is oddly charming and sweet.

Beneath their surface penchant for sexual games and their desire to appear mature and learned, each character emerges as remarkably innocent and youthful in myriad ways.

If Bertolucci doesn't succeed in making a powerful statement, at least he's crafted a two-hour film of exceptional tenderness and beauty. You'll have to decide if that's enough for you.

"The Dreamers" opens Fri., Feb. 20 at Landmark's Downer Theatre.

Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.

He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.

With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.

He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.

In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.

He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.