The Dreamers

Rating: * * * 1/2 (out of 5)
Director: Bernardo Bertolucci
Running time: 117 minutes
Language: English/some French
Currently showing
[See Japan Times movie listings]

As a child, I was raised as a Catholic, and went to church on Sunday, um, religiously. I can still remember the first time I skipped Mass and why: a double-feature at the old Harvard Square Theater of "Bonnie & Clyde" and "Easy Rider." From then on, Sundays were celebrated absorbing the works of Hitchcock, Truffaut, Scorsese, Tarkovsky, Fellini and Cassavettes, usually after smoky Saturday midnight screenings of cult classics like "The Harder They Come" or "Eraserhead."

For several years I lived and breathed cinema, and it rarely let me down. Good films didn't just transport you beyond your own experience for a couple of hours, they actually offered you new ways of perceiving the world around you. The really good stuff would insinuate itself so deep into your head that one morning you'd wake up, roll over your Vietnamese girlfriend, reach for the Gitanes, throw some Eno on the stereo, and realize you'd become Richard Bohringer in "Diva." Or something like that. Think I'm exaggerating? Just ask John Hinckley.

It's this extreme cinephilia, a passion bordering on obsession, that Bernardo Bertolucci celebrates in his latest, "The Dreamers." Set in Paris in 1968, Bertolucci's film -- based on a novel by Gilbert Adair -- follows three young film buffs who get caught up in the radical protests and rioting that shut down the city, while also tracing the complicated menage-a-trois that develops between them.