I think the only way to enjoy Bertolucci’s The Dreamers is to know nothing about film history. Or more specifically, to not have a master’s degree in film studies, to not have read 687 undergraduate papers about Keaton vs. Chaplin, or another 582 about the French New Wave, or to have written about 12 of your own on radical film of the 1960s and the Failure of the American Left.
That way, it wouldn’t sound like a bunch of history books talking when you watched the film and heard the oversimplified theses of 100 different papers spouted from the characters’ mouths–pretty mouths, but mouths which are not good enough at acting to pull off those whoppers naturally.
When the three are about to die in their own safe-from-the-real-world little hut and a brick from the student riots in the street crashes through their window and breaks their collective dream and oh-so-symbolically brings the real world crashing into their lives, I had to chuckle and try to tick off the number of papers I had written with this theme, and the number of films from the 1960s that have this as their theme–Mysteries of an Organism being the first to come to mind. But in The Dreamers it feels so self-conscious and dumbed-down that I laughed and/or rolled my eyes through much of it.
Though it did have a fantastic opening credit sequence.