7 April 2011
Throughout April and May BFI Southbank, in association with Cinecittà Luce, Rome, will present an in-depth overview of the career, to date, of the legendary Italian maestro Bernardo Bertolucci. This retrospective will include stunning new prints expressly realized by Cinecittà Luce of all his films (supervised by cinematographers Vittorio Storaro, Darius Kondji, Fabio Cianchetti) and a national release of his much lauded second film Before the Revolution Prima della rivoluzione (1964). Bertolucci will also take to the BFI stage for an exclusive interview with season curator David Thompson on 9th April where he will discuss both his past work as well as his highly anticipated future project announced earlier this year.
Born in 1941 in a large house just outside Parma, Bernardo Bertolucci grew up equally in the world of the senses (the countryside, with its intense smells and colours, would feature in several of his films) and of the intellect. His father was a well established poet and film critic, whose friendship with Pier Paolo Pasolini provided a doorway for his son into the professional world of the cinema. At the age of 13 Bertolucci decided that he would become a filmmaker - though as a youth he would first move to Rome where he became a noted poet, and then an assistant on Pasolini’s first feature, Accattone, By 21 he had directed his first feature, The Grim Reaper (La commare secca, 1962), set in the world of the Roman proletariat and adapted from a story by his mentor Pasolini.
His follow-up, Before the Revolution, centres on the political conflicts within a young man as he contemplates joining the Communist party. The young Bertolucci was passionate about politics and his work was informed by the changing tides of European politics in the early 60s and by directors such as Truffaut and Goddard; the uprisings of May ’68 influenced the narrative of Partner (1968), which occurred during the shoot. After the critical success of The Conformist (1970) (with cinematography by Vittorio Storaro, editing by Kim Arcalli and design by Fernando Scarfiotti) followed the infamous Last Tango in Paris (1972), which brought Bertolucci international recognition. Now he could play with the big boys of Hollywood, and attract major American stars to join him in making a political epic in the countryside of his beloved Parma: 1900 (November No, 1976), in the first half of the 20th century. With an international cast that included Robert de Niro, Burt Lancaster, Gérard Depardieu, and Donald Sutherland it took a year to film and will be screened in the full-length, Italian language version. The process was documented in The Cinema According to Bertolucci (Bertolucci secondo il cinema, Dir. Gianni Amelio, 1976) and is probably the most probing and intimate record of Bertolucci at work.
After Tragedy of a Ridiculous Man (La tragedia di un uomo ridicolo, 1981) his career as an internationally acclaimed director saw Bertolucci develop his own styles and approaches to filmmaking that would take his practise around the world. The Last Emperor (1987) took him to China – and collected nine Academy Awards – with stunning cinematography by Vittorio Storaro, before heading to Tangiers for an adaptation of Paul Bowles’ The Sheltering Sky (1990) and Nepal for Little Buddha (1993). As a reaction to big-budget epics, Bertolucci returned to Italy for the more simplistic Stealing Beauty (1996), starring Liv Tyler and Jeremy Irons. His last feature, to date, was The Dreamers (2003), a French romance set against the cinematic backdrop of Paris in 1968. Ill health has prevented him from working since, but earlier this year he announced that he has a new project planned.
Extended Run and National Release: Before the Revolution, Prima della rivoluzione
Bertolucci’s brilliantly assured second film is very loosely inspired by Stendhal’s The Charterhouse of Parma, a novel the director adored. The story centres on the emotional and political conflicts within a young man, Fabrizio, who is contemplating joining the Communist Party. But his personal life is even more unresolved, as he breaks away from his planned marriage to a perfect bourgeoise and becomes incestuously involved with his alluring aunt (Adriana Asti). Bertolucci’s obsession for politics and cinema is openly expressed through this alter-ego and in the extraordinary freedom of his camerawork and editing. There are heartfelt allusions to the history of filmmaking – a cinephile friend cries out ‘One cannot live without Rossellini’, while an erotic love scene echoes Jean Vigo’s L’Atalante – as well as to the city of his youth, with a climactic sequence at the opera that is breathtaking in its sweep and intensity.
Italy 1964 Dir Bernardo Bertolucci With Francesco Barilli, Adriana Asti 112min Digital EST
A BFI release
Thursday 7 April – Thursday 5 May
Bernardo Bertolucci in Conversation Sat 9 April 18:30 NFT1
It is with great pleasure that we welcome back to the BFI stage one of the world’s pre-eminent film directors. Launching a two-month retrospective of his films, Bernardo Bertolucci will be joined on stage by writer, documentarist and season curator David Thompson to discuss an incredible oeuvre spanning five decades.
Joint ticket available with either screening of Before the Revolution on 9 April (subject to availability) £13, concs £9.75 (Members pay £1.50 less)
The Grim Reaper, La commare secca
At the precocious age of 21, Bertolucci made his first feature from a story by his mentor Pier Paolo Pasolini, set in the Italian poet’s favourite world of the Roman proletariat. The Grim Reaper follows a police investigation into the murder of a prostitute through a conflicting series of overlapping testimonies. A complex flashback structure, vivid character sketches and fluid camerawork make a compelling debut. Plus Agonia (Italy 1969. With Julian Beck. 25min. EST): The Living Theater perform a haunting ritual of death and memory in this episode from the portmanteau film Amore e rabbia.
Italy 1962 With Francesco Ruiu, Allen Midgette 92 min EST 12A
Thu 21 April 20:10 NFT1, Mon 25 April 17:40 NFT1, Thu 28 April 17:50 NFT1
La via del petrolio
Italy 1966. 140min. EST
After the commercial failure of Before the Revolution desperate Bertolucci accepted a commission from Eni to make a three-hour documentary for television on the extraction and distribution of oil. Part One (Origins) begins in Iran, Part Two (The Journey) joins a tanker from the Persian Gulf to Genoa, and Part Three (Travelling through Europe) follows a pipeline into Germany. The director felt he was ‘filming the diggers as if they were pioneers of an archaic Western, and the helicopter pilots as if they were anarchist heroes, or the solitary characters of Godard.’ Restored version by Eni and Cineteca Nazionale, Rome.
Sun 10 April 17:50 NFT2, Fri 15 April 20:15 NFT2
Italy 1968. With Stefania Sandrelli, Tina Aumont. 107min. EST
To win the support of a producer, Bertolucci proposed adapting a well-known author, Dostoievsky. But his version of the Russian master’s The Double is far from orthodox, not to say bizarre, with Pierre Clementi as a drama teacher in Rome whose division into two personalities leads him to kill young women. Employing the full range of the scope screen with a minimum of editing, the film was clearly made in the shadow of Godard and Artaud, and embraces the revolutionary events of May 68 which were occurring during the shoot. Plus Canal (Italy 1966. 12 min. video. EST).
Mon 11 April 20:40 NFT2, Tue 19 April 20:40 NFT1, Sun 24 April 18:00 NFT1
The Spider’s Stratagem, Strategia del ragno
Italy 1970. With Giulio Brogi, Alida Valli, Tino Scorri. 101min. EST. PG
Based on a short story by Borges, Bertolucci’s extraordinary film (madefor TV, but widely seen in cinemas) follows a young man retracing his father’s life in a small town where he was celebrated as a hero killed by Fascists in 1936. However, a labyrinthine world of secrets and lies gradually reveals another story entirely. Marking the real beginning of his collaboration with cinematographer Vittorio Storaro, the film is a blend of glorious visuals with evocative music choices and a tantalising narrative structure.
Wed 13 April 20:50 NFT1, Sun 17 April 18:15 NFT1, Thu 28 April 20:50 NFT1
The Conformist, Il Conformista
Italy-France 1970. With Dominique Sanda, Pierre Clementi. 113min. EST. 15
Bertolucci’s stunning recreation of the 1930s is based on an Alberto Moravia novel. Haunted and uptight Marcello (Jean-Louis Trintignant) pursues his quest for a ‘normal’ life by marrying a ditzy but wealthy woman (Stefania Sandrelli) and committing himself to fascism by murdering his former philosophy professor. A guilty past and a conflicted present are dextrously inter-cut in the transition from a warm Rome to a wintry Paris, with an unparalleled blend of rich imagery (Storaro at his finest), sublime camera movement and psychological complexity.
Thu 14 April 20:45 NFT1; Thu 2 April 17:50 NFT1; Sat 30 April 20:45 NFT1
Last Tango in Paris, Ultimo tango a Parigi
Italy-France 1972. With Jean-Pierre Leaud, Massimo Girotti. 127min. EST
If The Conformist was a huge critical success, the scandal that was Last Tango made Bertolucci famous worldwide. Guided by his own psychoanalysis, the director explored the fantasy of an anonymous sexual affair between an embittered, menopausal American (Marlon Brando, in one of his finest and most revealing performances) and a spoilt young Parisienne (an enchanting debut by Maria Schneider). The fuss over the sex scene involving butter obscured the wonderful intimacy achieved by the actors and the film’s morbid intensity.
Sun 17 April 20:20 NFT1, Tue 19 April 18:10 NFT1,Sun 24 April 20:30 NFT1
Italy-France-USA 1976. With Donald Sutherland. 310min + two intervals. EST
Following the triumph of Last Tango, Bertolucci and his producer persuaded three US studios – Fox, United Artists and Paramount – to back a political epic about Italy in the first half of the 20th Century. Mixing American (Burt Lancaster, Robert De Niro) with European stars (Gérard Depardieu, Dominique Sanda), the film deals with the parallel lives of a peasant and his master on Bertolucci’s home turf near Parma, moving from the emotional bonds of youth to the inevitable conflicts of the proletarian revolution. This longer, Italian-language version of the film is the one to see.
Tickets £13, concs £9.75 (Members pay £1.50 less)
Sat 16 April 15:20 NFT1; Fri 22 April, 14:30 NFT1; Sat 23 April 15:00 NFT1
Italy-USA 1979. With Matthew Barry, Tomas Milian. 142min
Bertolucci pushed his fascination with psychoanalysis even further with this controversial tale of the incestuous relationship between a mother and son, set against the flamboyant world of international opera. With the death of her husband, a renowned American diva (Jill Clayburgh) is obliged to take her teenage son on tour with her to Italy, where he discovers the true story of his parentage. The director makes much play with the correspondence of sexual desire and camera moves, as well as the glorious theatricality of Verdi.
Thu 21 April 20:10 NFT1, Mon 25 April 17:40 NFT1, Thu 28 April 17:50 NFT1
The Cinema According to Bertolucci Bertolucci secondo il cinema
Following the year-long filming of the epic 1900, and including interviews with the director, his amazing cast and loyal crew, Amelio’s documentary is probably the most probing and intimate record of Bertolucci at work, from a fine filmmaker himself (Open Doors, Stolen Children).
Italy 1976 Dir Gianni Amelio 70min Video EST+
The Italian Traveller: Bernardo Bertolucci Le Voyageur Italien
Made by a long-term assistant to the director, this whimsical documentary follows Bertolucci retracing his steps from the cow-sheds of Parma to the apartment used in Last Tango, encountering various actors en route (Jean-Pierre Léaud, Gérard Depardieu), before embarking on the filming of The Last Emperor in China
France 1987 Dir Fernand Moszkowicz 53min Video EST
Sun 17 April 15:40 NFT2, Wed 20 April 20:20 NFT3
Bertolucci’s Style, or, Where Should the Camera Be?
Bertolucci has described one of the most anxious moments in his life as being when, on his first feature, the far more experienced cinematographer asked where he should set up the camera. Since then that camera has tracked, danced, soared and even stayed rock-steady. In this illustrated talk, filmmaker and writer David Thompson looks at the different ways in which Bertolucci’s visual style has changed and evolved in over 40 years of movie-making, and how the decisions he has taken have often been in response both to the subject matter and to technological advances in cinema.
Tickets £5 Thu 14 April 18:10 NFT3
Tragedy of a Ridiculous Man, La tragedia di un uomo ridicolo
Italy 1981. With Anouk Aimée, Ricky Tognazzi, Laura Morante. 116min. EST. 15
Bertolucci’s most neglected film, inspired by a real-life incident, was intended as a kind of contemporary third act to 1900. A wealthy dairyfarmer’s Oedipal conflict with his son comes to a head when the latter is kidnapped and a huge ransom demanded. It’s a dilemma rich in ambiguities, shot in a more pareddown style (by cinematographer Carlo Di Palma) than its predecessors, and superbly acted by Ugo Tognazzi as the guilt-laden parent.
Sun 1 May 17:20 NFT1, Tue 3 May 20:40 NFT1, Sat 14 May 20:40 NFT
The Last Emperor
Italy-UK-China 1987. With John Lone, Peter O’Toole. 163min. 15
In the 1980s, Bertolucci wanted to escape Italy and make a film far away – and he chose China. The story of Pu Yi, the last crowned emperor who fell in with the Japanese in the 1930s and then was ‘reformed’ under Mao, provided the perfect material for a sweeping epic that combined political intrigue with Freudian drama. Stunningly photographed by Vittorio Storaro on authentic locations, the film brilliantly captures an exotic world before and after the revolution.
Sun 1 May 19:50 NFT1, Sat 7 May 14:50 NFT1, Tue 10 May 19:50 NFT1
The Sheltering Sky
Italy-UK 1990. With Campbell Scott, Timothy Spall. 137min. 15
Looking for a subject ‘to put the soul under a microscope’, Bertolucci found it in Paul Bowles’ celebrated novel about an inseparable but unhappy American couple whose voyage around Morocco ends in death and breakdown. A kind of last tango in the desert, the film boasts bravura performances from John Malkovich and Debra Winger, and conveys he intense experience of being overwhelmed by an alien culture and landscape.
Mon 2 May 15:10 NFT1, Sun 8 May 15:40 NFT1, Sun 15 May 18:00 NFT1
Italy-France 1993. With Chris Isaak,B ridget Fonda. 123min. PG
The third of Bertolucci’s ‘exotic trilogy’ was, for once, a film not solely aimed at adults. A contemporary search for the reincarnation of a recently deceased Buddhist teacher is interwoven with a richly imagined recreation of Prince Siddartha (a sympathetic Keanu Reeves) on his journey to enlightenment. Again the director filmed in an exotic locale – Nepal – but he also employed state-of-the-art special effects with great flair.
Mon 2 May 18:00 NFT1, Fri 13 May 20:30 NFT1, Sat 21 May 20:30 NFT1
Italy-France-UK 1996. With Jeremy Irons, Donal McCann. 118min. 15
As a kind of reaction against big-budget spectacle, Bertolucci took on the story of a young girl (an enchanting Liv Tyler) both losing her virginity and discovering the secret of her parentage over a sultry summer in Tuscany. Controversially, the director’s return to Italy was consciously light in tone, and focused on the intrigues among a largely expatriate community who have lost their political ideals but settled for artistic pursuits.
Mon 2 May 20:40 NFT1, Sat 21 May 18:00 NFT1, Sun 22 May 20:40 NFT1
Italy-UK 1998. With Thandie Newton,D avid Thewlis. 93min. PG
Initially conceived for television, Beseiged is a chamber piece about the troubled relationship between a gifted but neurotic English composer-pianist, resident in Rome, and his young African housekeeper, who has fled her oppressive country. Shot mainly hand-held and edited with frequent jump-cuts, the film shows a master director reinventing himself yet again. Plus Histoire d’eaux, the director’s episode from the 2002 portmanteau film Ten Minutes Older: The Cello, with Valeria Bruni Tedeschi and Amit Arroz.
Sun 8 May 20:45 NFT1, Sat 14 May 16:15 NFT1, Sat 28 May 18:10 NFT3
France-UK-Italy 2003. With Robin Renucci, Anna Chancellor. 115min
A young American (Michael Pitt) meets a strangely connected French twin brother and sister (Louis Garrel and Eva Green) at the Paris Cinématheque in 1968. The trio begin an erotic adventure while isolating themselves in a labyrinthine apartment. Outside, revolution is in the air… From a novel and screenplay by Gilbert Adair, this heady mix of movies, sex and politics allowed Bertolucci to celebrate both cinephilia and revolutionary passion.
Fri 6 May 18:10 NFT1*, Thu 26 May 18:20 NFT1,T ue 31 May 20:40 NFT1
*Introduced by producer Jeremy Thomas
Once Upon a Time... Last Tango in Paris
France 2004. Dir Marie Genin & Serge July. 55min. EST
From an acclaimed series made for French TV about classic films and their era, this is an engaging examination of the making of Last Tango, with confessional contributions from the director and the late Maria Schneider.
+ Cinema, Sex, Politics: Bertolucci Makes The Dreamers
UK 2003. Dir David Thompson. 59min
An intimate look at the director at work in Paris, recreating an era of revolutions on celluloid and on the streets.
+ Postcards from China
Italy 1985. Dir Bernardo Bertolucci. 8min
Sat 28 May 15:20 NFT2, Tue 31 May 18:00 NFT2
The BFI is the lead body for film in the UK with the ambition to create a flourishing film environment in which innovation, opportunity and creativity can thrive by:
• Connecting audiences to the widest choice of British and World cinema
• Preserving and restoring the most significant film collection in the world for today and future generations
• Championing emerging and world class film makers in the UK
• Investing in creative, distinctive and entertaining work
• Promoting British film and talent to the world
• Growing the next generation of film makers and audiences
Established in May 2009 following the merger of Cinecittà
> Holding and Istituto Luce, CINECITTA’ LUCE is the public service branch of
> the Italian Ministry of Culture with the aim of promoting
> classic and contemporary Italian cinema worldwide, providing support in
> the selection of Italian films at major film festivals and coordinating
> the participation of Italian talents attending international events.
It owns one of the largest video and photo Archive in Europe and it discovers new talents by producing first features films.
The BFI Southbank is open to all. BFI members are entitled to a discount on all tickets. BFI Southbank Box Office tel: 020 7928 3232. Unless otherwise stated tickets are £9.50, concs £6.75 Members pay £1.50 less on any ticket. Website www.bfi.org.uk/southbank
Tickets for FREE screenings and events must be booked in advance by calling the Box Office to avoid disappointment