Bernardo Bertolucci

The Dreamers

Interviewed by Stephen Applebaum

“I'm surprised that I'm not talking to you in a dressing gown ”

Bernardo Bertolucci has returned to the Paris of his youth to create The Dreamers, his sexiest film since Last Tango In Paris. Minds, however, seemed to have closed since Marlon Brando and Maria Schneider got their kit off for anonymous sex, with the Italian director being forced to re-cut the film for prudish censors across the Atlantic.

Was it difficult for you to go back to the days of May, 1968?

The film is extremely personal. So much so that I'm surprised that I'm not talking to you in a dressing gown, because it's something that belongs to me intimately, in my deepest being. I took these three young people - Eva Green, Louis Garrel, Michael Pitt - and with them, I went into a sort of time machine. I have felt and experienced this ecstasy, this sort of physiological, not imaginary, flashback.

Did you expect the film to be controversial?

The film has been received controversially, but perhaps less so than I expected or I even wanted. But anyway, to say immediately about the relationship between this film and Last Tango In Paris, what these two films have in common is Paris, and at the beginning it's the beginning and end of an era. In Last Tango the transgressive thrust of the 60s led to a tragic end. In this film we have a lightness which Last Tango didn’t have, and which, perhaps, I didn’t have. At least I hope not.

What was the intention behind the film?

When Gilbert [Adair, screenwriter] was 18, he found himself living in Paris, and he lived through almost everything that the film talks of. We started to talk about this and he developed the screenplay. We met a lot, and we realised our point in common was being film buffs. That's a very important thing for the film because it blends everything - cinema, eroticism, politics, rock 'n' roll. There’s a sort of Utopian visionary drive which brings all these things together. And the film is just this. Nothing else.

Apparently, you're having to re-cut it for American audiences...

I am very confused. In May [2003], Fox Searchlight received the film and they were very enthusiastic. Then something odd happened, rather like lightning out of the blue. At the end of July, they told us that Fox could not release a film which was NC-17. Because of this the film risks coming out in the United States amputated, mutilated. Obviously some people think that the American public is too immature to be able to see the film. In 1973, Last Tango opened practically uncut. So what happened? What’s going on over there?