Paris, 1968. Matthew, an American film buff studying in Paris, is picked up by similarly moviephilic French twins Isabelle and Theo. He spends the summer in their family apartment, drawn deep into their bizarre relationship even as student riots break out on the streets.
Bernardo Bertolucci and British screenwriter Gilbert Adair (on whose novel, The Holy Innocents, this film is based) present a united front in their devotion to French eccentricity, the radical milieu of soixante-huite and talking about movies. The Paris unrest of 1968 was triggered by the dismissal of Henri Langlois, head of the Cinématheque Française, and it's at a rowdy demonstration against this that pre-Raphaelite Michael Pitt is drawn to sophisticated, gamine Eva Green and brooding Louis Garrel.
Tiny clips from significant movies and heated debates about the merits of Charlie Chaplin vs. Buster Keaton (or Eric Clapton vs. Jimi Hendrix) are the touchstones of this eternal triangle movie, which is at its best when simply evoking things that its creators and its characters love the most. Note the moment when the trio's run through the Louvre is intercut with the same scene in Godard's Bande á Part.
It seesaws between disturbing psychosis and freewheeling nouvelle vague romance, then turns awkwardly editorial in the last reel (2That's fascism in a bottle," says Matthew (Pitt) as Theo (Garrel) whips up a Molotov cocktail), and signs off in hackneyed fashion with Edith Piaf ne regretting rien.
Fans of film and gorgeous naked people of either sex will find much here to interest them. But it also has moments that make you want to throw stones.