The Dreamers <br></br> Something's Gotta Give <br></br> Suddenly <br></br> Charlie <br></br> Sunrise

Last tango? This time it really is...
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The Independent Culture

In 1964 Bernardo Bertolucci established his international reputation with Before the Revolution. Concerning a middle-class young Parma man's futile attempts to become a revolutionary, the film introduced the Italian's perennial preoccupations with politics, psychology and cinephilia. "Remember," says one character, "we can't live without Rossellini."

Forty years later, Bertolucci is revisiting the Sixties and, particularly, his own past. That doesn't mean that The Dreamers (18) represents a return to form for a director who has been aimless for too long; it's more a "best of" compilation, with the political backdrop and film buffery of Before the Revolution mixed with the sexual transgression of Last Tango in Paris. As such it's an intoxicating reverie, but one which flatters to deceive.

It's 1968 and an American student in Paris, Matthew (Michael Pitt), is drawn inexorably to the Cinemathèque Française, the famed cinema which nurtured the nouvelle vague of Godard, Truffaut et al. Here he meets and is quickly seduced by brother and sister Theo (Louis Garrel) and Isabelle (Eva Green). With political unrest rumbling outside the window, this nubile ménage à trois barricades itself within the siblings' home, where Michael's shock at his friends' incestuous leanings gives away to nonchalance as they include him in their sexual games.

Based on a novel by Gilbert Adair, who also wrote the screenplay, the film is most enjoyable when depicting an extreme passion for cinema, the youths enacting scenes from favourite films as diverse as Top Hat, Shock Corridor and - speeding and sliding down the corridors of the Louvre - Godard's Bande à part.

There is also an intriguing nod towards Les enfants terribles, Cocteau's tale of young beauties whose isolation leads them towards premature decay. But where Cocteau created a genuine tragedy, The Dreamers is merely frivolous, infuriatingly so, because it suggests a dynamic between the trio's sexual adventures and the real business of "liberation" taking place on the streets, which it doesn't deliver. Bertolucci seems so intent on ogling his young stars, that he spurns an opportunity to remind today's cineastes why we once loved him.

Something's Gotta Give (12A) also has a splash of nostalgia, reuniting Jack Nicholson and Diane Keaton 20 years after they co-starred in Reds. They're getting on a bit now, of course, which is the whole point of this romantic comedy.

Milking his own image for all it's worth, Jack plays Harry Sanborn, a New York businessmen with a reputation as "the escape artist", a bachelor who never dates anyone older than 30; Keaton is Erica Barry, a playwright, divorcee, and mother of Harry's latest squeeze. While visiting the Barry home in the Hamptons, Harry has a heart attack, which is not only a shock to his pride (he has to admit that he's on Viagra), but also to Erica, who has to babysit a man she loathes. Inevitably, they fall in love. But while Erica is happy to resist the attentions of a young doctor (Keanu Reeves), there's no sign that Harry is going to discover the art of commitment.

Nancy Meyers' film needs to be indulged. It takes an age to get going, is overlong and hampered by the sort of self-satisfied, affluent east coast shtick that can be incredibly irritating. That said, it works. It is very funny, while the rapport between the leads lends real meat to the romance. It's also refreshing to see a film which treats middle-aged relations both seriously and sexily. As the pair get down to it, Harry asks "What about birth control?" and gets the answer, "Menopause." Jack flashes that grin of his and declares, "Aren't I the lucky one?"

The Argentine film Suddenly (15) opens with a lonely girl, Marcia, being accosted in a Buenos Aires street by two lesbian petty criminals, one of whom declares that she is in love with her. Marcia reluctantly joins them on a trip to the coast, the trio ending up at the home of an elderly relative, where the rebel punkettes reveal something of their true nature.

Evocatively shot in black and white, this is a beautiful, enigmatic little road movie, the tone of which segues skilfully from a palpable sense of threat, to something more quirky and, dare one say it, life-affirming. Writer-director Diego Lerman is an original new voice.

There is nothing original about Charlie (18), yet another British gangster flick and already a front runner for worst film of the year. Starring former pop star Luke Goss, it purports to be an exoneration of notorious Sixties gangster Charlie Richardson, while actually getting its rocks off on the excessive violence of which he was accused. It is a shoddily written, ugly, pointless piece of pap.

Far better to return to Sunrise, F W Murnau's classic silent film, a paean to love and the city, which is being re-released in a restored print. The story of a farmer who, in attempting to kill his wife rediscovers his love for her, is moving enough; but the joy of the film lies in the way that is expressed through images. The tram ride in which the couple pass from confrontation to reunion is one of the most exhilarating scenes in the movies.

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