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Bernardo Bertolucci (#110 of 12)

Film Comment Selects 2014: Me and You Review

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Film Comment Selects 2014: <em>Me and You</em> Review
Film Comment Selects 2014: <em>Me and You</em> Review

A complicated kinship, built out of divorce, offers a surprising safe haven for two narcissistic half-sibilings in Me and You, Bernardo Bertolucci’s first film in nearly a decade. As teenaged Lorenzo (Jacopo Olmo Antinori) unexpectedly becomes temporary roommates with his slightly older half-sister, Olivia (Tea Falco), during a week-long hideout in the storage basement of his mother’s apartment building, the fissions of their respective home lives—they have the same father—becomes more apparent, as do the curvatures of their sexual and psychological identities. Bertolluci, far from the romanticized juvenescence of The Dreamers, soberly details Lorenzo’s perversity, verbal antagonizing, and isolationism, and Olivia’s cold-turkey attempt to quit heroin, with his customarily vibrant, seasoned style that hums with both the regret of age and the uncertainty of youth.

15 Famous Big Weddings

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15 Famous Big Weddings
15 Famous Big Weddings

This weekend, multiplexes will be hit with what’s surely aiming to be the Valentine’s Day of wedding flicks. Directed by Justin Zackham, The Big Wedding packs Robert De Niro, Susan Sarandon, Diane Keaton, Katherine Heigl, Robin Williams, and more into a cast that’s led my Amanda Seyfried and Ben Barnes as the bride and groom. The titular celebration calls to mind a whole lot of substantial cinema nuptials, which stretch from good to great, and occur within chick flicks and masterpieces. We’ve rounded up 15 movie weddings that—aw, hell—take the cake.

If I Had a Sight & Sound Film Ballot Tony Dayoub’s Top 10 Films of All Time

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If I Had a Sight & Sound Film Ballot: Tony Dayoub’s Top 10 Films of All Time
If I Had a Sight & Sound Film Ballot: Tony Dayoub’s Top 10 Films of All Time

When The House Next Door invited its writers to submit their Top 10 films of all time, I was faced with the usual conundrum: What does “Top 10” signify – best or favorite? After much consideration, I’m happy to say that the list I came up with could easily represent either. These are definitely personal favorites, but, in my not-so-humble opinion, they are also unassailable in their perfection, and could easily fall at the top of any all-time best list arrived at by consensus.

15 Famous Movie Love Triangles

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15 Famous Movie Love Triangles
15 Famous Movie Love Triangles

Hitting theaters today is McG’s This Means War, a frothy comedy that pits Chris Pine against Tom Hardy in the fight for Reese Witherspoon’s smiley affections (best of luck there, Chris). From Arthurian legend to Bridget Jones’s Diary, stories of smitten trios have flooded the popular landscape, each threesome casting its sinful shadow on boring old monogamy. For this list of 15 standouts, the door was open to hallucinations, inanimate objects, and even different species—which is not to say Ménage à Twilight was ever in the running.

Toronto International Film Festival 2011: Twixt, The Cat Vanishes, & Love and Bruises

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Toronto International Film Festival 2011: <em>Twixt</em>, <em>The Cat Vanishes</em>, & <em>Love and Bruises</em>
Toronto International Film Festival 2011: <em>Twixt</em>, <em>The Cat Vanishes</em>, & <em>Love and Bruises</em>

With the quasi-comic horror trifle Twixt, Francis Ford Coppola joins the long list of narrative-conjurers to (mis)appropriate Edgar Allan Poe as a sober maestro of spook. A pallid, somber fictionalization of the author, played by Ben Chaplin, becomes Virgil to the Dante of Hall Baltimore (Val Kilmer, looking likeably portly), a bargain-basement witch novelist who gets fittingly embroiled in a small-town murder mystery. Poe counsels Baltimore in the crisp, ghostly digital dream world he plummets into whenever slumbering or getting knocked out, reciting passages from “The Philosophy of Composition” with a syrupy colonial accent, and seeming perpetually ready to stare down an owl. We read this off-kilter avuncular-ness, which is so at odds with Poe’s legacy (would the man who wrote “The Literary Life of Thingum Bob, Esq.” be so devoid of humor?) as a nod to Coppola’s own mentor, Roger Corman. And extrapolating on Corman’s own fondness for Poe’s thin macabre, we might understand Twixt as an awkward paean to hackwork, from “The Raven” to Spy Kids 3-D Game Over. (The film’s own 3D segment, to which we’re alerted by a monstrous pair of CGI glasses that non-diagetically enter the frame, is an easily collapsible parody).

A Conversation with Alex Ross Perry About The Color Wheel

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A Conversation with Alex Ross Perry About The Color Wheel
A Conversation with Alex Ross Perry About The Color Wheel

I know Alex Ross Perry from the movies, from seeing him at repertory screenings in New York. Before I had even met Alex, I heard a rumor that he had made Out 1 T-shirts to commemorate the “I was there” experience of that rare, 13-hour film’s U.S. premiere. Who was this kid? Oftentimes I’ve been at screenings with just five people in the audience: Alex, a notable critic, a DP (who shot Alex’s films) and a publicist/programmer (who has a cameo in Alex’s latest film). It was rewarding, then, to see his second film The Color Wheel and see that the lessons from all those films had sunk in. Alex made a film that feels like films he seeks out—idiosyncratic and perfectly flawed, and awaiting discovery. I spoke with Alex about his film, and then asked him to make a list of some of his most memorable moviegoing experiences.

Cannes Film Festival 2011: The Long Run

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Cannes Film Festival 2011: The Long Run
Cannes Film Festival 2011: The Long Run

If the Cannes Film Festival is the cinephile’s version of the Olympics, the media critics covering the event are its long-distance runners. Traversing two weeks of nonstop screenings, panels, conferences, and other festivities can be intimidating by any standard, and don’t forget there’s writing to be done. This is my first year on the Croisette, so I made sure to speak with a few veterans who’ve already survived the madness. One golden rule emerged from their collective wisdom: pace yourself. Easier said than done, I’d imagine. Even though my preplanned screening schedule includes 53 features, interviews, and a red carpet or two, this dude plans to abide. Or at least try not to go crazy with excitement and stress.

As I sit here on a cramped plane to Nice by way of Zurich by way of Philadelphia by way of Los Angles (don’t ask), the mere thought of attending Cannes, much less covering the spectacle for a respected media outlet, makes my head spin. Twelve months ago, I was teaching film studies and screenwriting and fruitlessly screaming into the vast film blogosphere trying to be heard, anticipating Cannes reports by writers I admired from the cold vantage point of a computer screen. Well, what a difference a year makes. Thanks to the endless support of Slant’s co-founder and film editor, Ed Gonzalez, I’m one of the lucky few who get to battle first-world problems like “pace yourself” and “make sure to sleep.” Consider me humbled.

The Conversations: Last Tango in Paris

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The Conversations: Last Tango in Paris
The Conversations: Last Tango in Paris

Ed Howard: The opening titles of Bernardo Bertolucci’s infamous 1972 film Last Tango in Paris lay out, in an especially naked way, the themes and aesthetics of the film to come. The titles sequence is backed by two paintings by Francis Bacon, whose work inspired Bertolucci during the filming of Last Tango in Paris: first, on the left half of the screen, an image of a man in a white t-shirt reclining on a red couch, his body contorted and grotesque in contrast to the seeming languor of his posture; then, on the right half of the screen, a woman sitting primly in a wooden chair, her legs awkwardly crossed and her face, like that of the man, a jumble of distorted features. Only at the end of the credits are the two images placed side by side, and the film’s whole story is encompassed by that single gesture: two tortured, haunted, isolated figures placed together as a study of separate lives, separate pains briefly united. The psychological torment suggested by Bacon’s figures—which seem to be writhing, contorting, straining at the stasis of the paintings, all of their internal ugliness written into their bodies and faces—carries over into the rest of the film.

The man in this diptych is Paul (Marlon Brando), an American abroad in Paris, dealing—rather badly—with the very recent suicide of his French wife. The woman in the diptych is Jeanne (Maria Schneider), a French girl who Paul meets in a rotting, trashed apartment where he pulls her into a violent sexual entanglement, an escalating game of debasement and sex-as-conflict. The simple device of preceding the film proper with Bacon’s ugly/provocative figures, with their fleshy pink tones and sprawling ruin, suggests how we should read these characters, and if it wasn’t clear enough already, the film opens with Paul practically in mid-scream, a howl of unrestrained anguish that’s hardly drowned out even by the roaring train passing overhead. It’s tempting to think that Last Tango in Paris is about sex, for obvious reasons, but it’s not really. It’s about pain. The characters—and Bertolucci—simply use sex as a tool to express things that actually have very little to do with sex itself.

Still, there’s no doubt that the sex got—and continues to get—most of the attention. Pauline Kael, in an ecstatic (I’m tempted to say orgasmic) review, praised Bertolucci for bringing eroticism to the movies. (She goes on to make more nuanced arguments, which I’m sure we’ll get to later; I can’t think of another movie that seems as linked to a single critic’s response as this film is with Kael.) Norman Mailer, responding to Kael, said the film would have been better if it’d been more extreme, more sexually explicit, more real: “Brando’s real cock up Schneider’s real vagina would have brought the history of film one huge march closer to the ultimate experience it has promised since its inception.” But that’s missing the point, no? Did Bertolucci bring sex to the cinema with Last Tango in Paris, or is all that sex just a red herring for the film’s real concerns?

Review: The Conformist

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Review: <em>The Conformist</em>
Review: <em>The Conformist</em>

[The Conformist opens today for a one-week run at Film Forum.]

Generally understood to be an unshakably influential film and a keystone of the canon, The Conformist represents Bernardo Bertolucci’s first fully successful coordinated attack on the retinas. Vittorio Storaro had been a camera operator on Before The Revolution, but in 1970 he first worked for Bertolucci as DP, here and on the preceding The Spider’s Stratagem. The film presents one stunning image after another; it takes about 45 minutes to even start noticing much else on first viewing.

That The Conformist isn’t Bertolucci’s most sexually perverse film of the ’70s merely means that Last Tango In Paris and Luna exist. (And like the same year’s The Garden of the Finzi-Continis, the film contemplates the effects of fascism on Italian life at least partially via Dominique Sanda’s breasts.) In boldly operatic and unapologetically allegorical terms, The Conformist presents the story of Marcello Clerici (Jean-Louis Trintignant), a sexually indecisive and morally persuadable man who tries to get himself to focus by being a good fascist. Marrying a “mediocre bourgeois” (Stefania Sandrelli) is as important as volunteering to inform for the secret police.