Bernardo Bertolucci

Bernardo Bertolucci

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Seduced and Abandoned Review


Excellent

Anyone interested in how movies get made will love this feisty behind-the-scenes documentary, which uses sharp comedy to explore the messy business side of cinema. Both smart and very funny, it may not tell us much that we don't know (mainly that it's almost impossible to get a film financed unless it's a blockbuster with bankable stars), but it reveals things in ways that make us wonder about the future of the movies.

The film follows actor Alec Baldwin and director James Toback as they head to the Cannes Film Festival to secure funding for their planned Iraq-set riff on Last Tango in Paris. They meet with a variety of experts who tell them that their hoped-for budget is three times too high for a movie starring Baldwin and Neve Campbell. So they talk to Chastain, Bejo and Kruger about taking over the lead role. They also consult with a range of prominent filmmakers including Scorsese, Coppola, Polanski and the Last Tango maestro himself, Bertolucci. But the more time they spend with the people who control the money, the more they wonder if their movie will ever get made.

It's fairly clear from the start that Last Tango in Tikrit is a joke project, but everyone takes it seriously. And as they talk to prospective investors, Baldwin and Toback consider adjusting the film to get more cash by, for example, shooting scenes in Russia or China. It's fascinating to hear these billionaires offer advice on how to get their movie made. And hilariously, no one worries about Baldwin's insistence that the story requires explicit sexual scenes.

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70th Venice Film Festival - Jury Members - Photocall

Ryuchi Sakamoto, Renato Berta, Jiang Wen, Martina Gedeck, Bernardo Bertolucci, Andrea Arnold, Carrie Fisher and Virginie Ledoye - 70th Venice Film Festival - Jury Members - Photocall - Venice, Italy - Wednesday 28th August 2013

The Last Emperor Review


Good
Toy trucks and accessorized dolls are common props of the wide-eyed two year-old's wonderment. While Puyi, who was appointed China's last emperor at that tender age, might have substituted fine silk curtains for plastic as he explored the Forbidden City -- toddling the breathtaking, empty rooms and splashing in bathtubs -- the veil of childhood was quickly lifted to reveal a solitary life of duty and responsibility. Bernardo Bertolucci's The Last Emperor deals with many false truths, but the most disappointing is that the film, itself, doesn't live up to its grandiose individual efforts.

Despite its bold opening of Puyi's attempted suicide as a prisoner in a reeducation camp in his late 50s, The Last Emperor is your standard biopic, complete with the framework of the aged character telling the story of his life. Of course, Puyi's peculiar childhood is the most interesting half of the two-and-a-half-hour film, and it's there where Bertolucci's grip on the material is the strongest. From the seven-year-old Puyi's desperation to connect with the mother he was separated from six years prior to the teenage Puyi's pet mouse. Bertolucci's poetics seem to transcend the film's immaculate design and execution. It helps that the material is inherently interesting -- we are all bound by duty in some regard and are constantly looking for an escape. Still, Bertolucci takes chances, even shocking us with a seven-year-old Puyi nestling in his mother's bare bosom or the pet mouse meeting its demise against the Forbidden City's gate at the hands of a frustrated Puyi. These are not mere exploits, however, but sad moments where it's clear that Puyi's childhood and foreshadowed adulthood needs and desires are controlled by others.

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The Conformist Review


Essential
Bernardo Bertolucci has always been one of the scant few directors to actually understand the art of eroticism. There's an irrepressible elegance in the way he films women and the way they look when they're just existing or preparing for a tryst with a lover. His early films have a way of stressing those flippant eyebrows and coy smiles over the quick glimpse of the nipple or (god forbid) full breasts. The lilting gasps and moans of lovers preparing and engaging in their blissfulness is a nervy symphony for his acutely shot images. Even now, 36 years after his best film and three years after his amicable The Dreamers, Bertolucci's films seem to careen with seduction in ways that no other filmmaker can possibly recreate. Though best known for Last Tango in Paris, The Conformist still holds as Bertolucci's most provocative work and a classic of Italian New Wave.

Marcello (the great Jean-Louis Trintignant) has a common yearning in his life, though he puts it much more bluntly than others would. Marcello wants to be normal. Normal as in Fascist, normal as in wife, children and government job, and, finally, normal in that he represses and attempts to forget all his dark dreams and past deeds. The charge from his hushed organization is to assassinate his old philosophy professor (Enzo Tarascio) in France while on a fake honeymoon with his "petty" wife, Giulia (Stefania Sandrelli, playing the part with a marvelous mixture of oblivious commitment and hollowed sexiness). While on assignment, he flirts and sneaks to hidden corners with the Anna (Dominique Sanda), the professor's volatile, anti-Fascist wife, and attempts to keep his agency contact (Gastone Moschin) happy.

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The Sheltering Sky Review


Weak
Bertolucci's grand desert epic gets stuck in the sand right at the start. Its idling husband-wife leads practically assure us of that: They're headed to Africa -- to nowhere in particular -- to while away a year or two. They aren't tourists, they're travelers. But, are Debra Winger and John Malkovich actors you'd remotely associate with such a grand adventure? Or getting lost in "sensual" overload and the pleasures of the flesh? Winger as the concubine of an Arab traveler? The plot is so strange and absurd -- all to get to the point that the desert makes you crazy -- that we're left with nothing but staring at the dusty landscapes, which, as usual, Bertolucci has quite a knack with. Still, we've seen the lovely desert many times before in the movies, and those films have much better stories attached.

La Commare Secca Review


OK
Kurosawa doesn't have a monopoly on the story told from different perspectives -- Bernardo Bertolucci, of all people, made one too. In fact, La Commare Secca was his first film.

Secca is awfully rough around the edges, and viewers more accustomed to polished work like Last Tango in Paris and The Dreamers are going to have a tough time reconciling it with Bertolucci's early attempt here.

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Triumph of Love Review


Terrible
The moral of love: Be manipulative and conniving to get the man (or woman) you want, even if a few other folks get their hopes crushed along the way. That's what's certain after watching Clare Peploe's depressing fairytale/restoration comedy Triumph of Love (based on a superficial Marivaux play originally performed in 1732). That's not the filmmaker's intention, though. She's clearly going for whimsy, light romance, and slapstick cuckolding. What her film lacks is a heart and a conscience.

Mira Sorvino plays a princess who dresses up as a dandified male student to infiltrate the summertime estate of a misogynistic philosopher (Ben Kingsley). Under the old man's tutelage, a dashing prince (Jay Rodan) has been instructed to distrust the female sex. So clever Sorvino attires herself as a man to earn his friendship, trust, and above all, love.

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Besieged Review


Terrible
Bernardo Bertolucci gives us another long-winded look into the lives of people you'll never see in real-life with Besieged, a fable about a fainting pianist (Thewlis) who falls madly in love with his exiled African housekeeper (Newton). Sure.... So, will our housekeeper abandon her jailed husband in favor of our tragic hero? Perhaps, if he can prove his devotion.

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Last Tango in Paris Review


OK
Last Tango in Paris raised a lot of eyebrows, but not for its plot. Rated X, there's enough nudity and naughty talk to almost make you forget you're looking at Marlon Brando's sweaty body. Almost.

Unfortunately, this "torrid love affair" between a grieving American (Brando) and a pouty Parisian (Maria Schneider) -- they don't even tell one another their names -- is overlong and overblown. It's Bertolucci, after all, making a film inspired by his creepy desire to bone an anonymous woman he once saw. The story is one of dysfunction and thinly veiled misanthropy; love is left as an afterthought.

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Bernardo Bertolucci

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