THE DREAMERS (2004) Yes, Bernardo Bertolucci's adaptation of Gilbert Adair's novel was awarded the NC-17 rating when it debuted in theaters. And yes, there are copious amounts of full-frontal nudity (both male and female). But the puritans who lambasted this film for being about nothing more than sex largely missed the point. Sure, there's sex, but there's also politics, cinema, psychology, and the sort of ruddy-faced idealism that once upon a time fueled numerous works made by filmmakers with international aspirations. Still, even though the picture is more ambitious than it initially appears, its overall success can't quite rival its heady intentions. Set in Paris in the culturally shifting year of 1968, the picture follows an American student named Matthew (Michael Pitt) as he hooks up with a pair of French siblings, Isabelle (Eva Green) and Theo (Louis Garrel). Holed up in their apartment, the trio chew the fat over such topics as Chaplin versus Keaton and the US involvement in Vietnam, although most of their time is spent engaging in emotional and sexual mind games -- often of a highly controversial nature. Neither the turbulent backdrop nor the kids' personalities are brought enough to life to make the movie much more than a passing curio. In the end, it works most effectively as an ode to the manner in which cinema infuses the lives of its fans, by allowing them to either shut themselves off from reality or open their eyes to the world around them -- or, as practiced by these characters, alternate between the two. DVD extras include audio commentary by Bertolucci, Adair and producer Jeremy Thomas, a making-of documentary, a look at France in 1968, and the music video for Pitt's rendition of "Hey Joe." The movie is also available in a butchered, R-rated version, but why bother?
MY VOYAGE TO ITALY (2001). Whereas the superb 1995 multi-part film A Personal Journey With Martin Scorsese Through American Movies found the esteemed director examining the classic Hollywood pictures that influenced him, this four-hour documentary centers on the Italian movies that likewise helped shape his views of the world in general and cinema in particular. Those seeking a comprehensive study of Italian film history should look elsewhere (for starters, there's no Leone or Bertolucci); instead, Scorsese keeps his focus on the handful of post-war filmmakers who either created the Italian neorealism movement or who later made their mark on more surrealist terms. Roberto Rossellini's Open City, Vittorio De Sica's The Bicycle Thief and Federico Fellini's 8-1/2 are naturally among the films discussed, and Scorsese's exuberance as a die-hard movie buff is, as always, positively infectious. But whereas Personal Journey showed brief clips from scores of movies -- thus whetting our appetites and making us want to rush out to rent the featured films -- Voyage shows great chunks of the films under discussion (including their endings), thereby dampening the enthusiasm of those who might want to see these works in their entirety. There are no DVD extras, only the movie split up between two discs.