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I had always wanted to watch this rarely-seen (and most Godardian) of
Bertolucci films ever since I read about it in an old British film
magazine of my father's. However, having caught up with it now thanks
to No Shame's 2-Disc Special Edition, I have to say that I was
underwhelmed, finding it overly didactic and, unfortunately, Godard's
trademark dynamism and humor (in his early work, at least) are seldom
While interesting and quite admirable in itself - being a loose updating of Dostoyevsky's "The Double" - the film feels dated today (especially its consumerist critique, represented by a silly musical number about "Dash", a detergent which ironically is still in use nearly 40 years on!); having said that, Godard had already attacked the same targets in 2 OR 3 THINGS I KNOW ABOUT HER (1967). Besides, Pierre Clementi's cold and arrogant personality doesn't allow much audience sympathy. Bertolucci's technique is suitably experimental - one of his most surreal touches is having Clementi's large shadow, cast on a wall, turning against him and, in a remarkable sequence, despite Morricone's lush romantic music, a date between Clementi and Stefania Sandrelli consists of them being "driven" in a stationary vehicle with Clementi's butler making do as chauffeur i.e. acting out the machine's sounds with his mouth! Incidentally, a similar scene was depicted in Jerzy Skolimowski's LE DEPART (1967), another experimental film I caught up with recently and which also left me somewhat disappointed.
Apart from reflecting on politics and modern society, the script contrasts contemporaneous attitudes in theatre and cinema. Sandrelli, although looking positively gorgeous as a blonde, seems uneasy in this environment (even if she did go on to make 3 more films with the director) but Tina Aumont's contribution (who expires unconventionally at the hands of Clementi at the end of the afore-mentioned musical number) is rather delightful. The film's colorful widescreen photography makes great use of its Rome locations, while Ennio Morricone's eclectic score serves more often than not as ironic comment on the action.
Not an easy title to appreciate, therefore, and Bertolucci has certainly made more involving films but, at least, the DVD extras prepared by No Shame (this is their first release I've sampled) - particularly the fascinating and lengthy interviews with Bertolucci and film editor Roberto Perpignani - are excellent indeed! An interesting piece of information gleaned from the supplements is that the film's script was rarely adhered to and neither were current conventional Italian filming techniques (the sound was recorded live); besides, Pierre Clementi flew every weekend to Paris and reported back to Bertolucci with the most up-to-date slogans spouted by the protesters in those famous May 1968 riots, thus enabling him to incorporate them into his film like "Vietato Vietare" (It is forbidden to forbid) and "Proibito Proibire" (It is prohibited to prohibit)...
It's not easy to rate an experimental film on the same scale as films that were intended to be seen by wider commercial audiences, and "Partner" is an experimental film. Many have criticized Bertolucci for aping Godard's style in this film, and certainly there are liberal elements of "Two Or Three Things I Know About Her" and "Weekend," but the camera work and cinematography and even the Morricone score are all indicative of an Italian filmmaker, more so than the French new wave that served as the defacto inspiration. But if one is forced to point out the films that it followed, one should also illuminate the many films that it inspired, whether directly or indirectly, and that list is at least as impressive. The easy heir is "Fade To Black," which follows a would-be actor on his descent into madness and murder. The over-the-top performance of Pierre Clementi is exchanged (perhaps as a sign of the times) for the understated twitchiness of Dennis Christopher, but the whole story is here. One can chose to credit the original Dostoyevsky story, but the film reference reads truer as an influence on the later film when considering what a lose adaptation "Partner" was of "The Double." In fact, Conrad's "The Secret Sharer" could just as easily have served as the source material when dissected the faithfulness of the Amico script of the Russian author's work (and of course only for the sake of argument, as Dostoyevsky is clearly credited). Less obvious may be the impact that Partner had on Bertolucci's Italian peers. A mere year later, "Love And Anger" would unite the Italian filmeratti with Godard to launch a collaborative New Wave film. It's unlikely this would have happened were it not for the release of "Partner." Likewise, the classroom discussions of "Zabriskie Point" betray more in common with this film than with Antonioni's previous output, and yet it can also be said that certain scene compositions in "Partner" could trace their routes back to Antonioni's "Blow Up." The composition is very similar though the camera movement is not. Even when examining Bertolucci's future output, one can point to Partner as the turning point in his artistic style. Up to that point his work was devoid of the cinema reference that pervades "Partner" (the Odessa steps parody, amongst others) and was toned down in "The Conformist" and "Last Tango In Paris." As an experiment, Partner is more of a success than a failure. It's not simple, casual viewing. It's a hard to digest film from a man who has absorbed and digested more about film than most others. It's comparable to Louis Malle's "Black Moon," but predates it by seven years. "Partner" is an oddity. It's unlikely to have a broad appeal, which is probably a good thing. This isn't going to sway the "Shrek" crowd, that's for sure. To an extent, you either get this film or you don't. The same can be said for dozens of films and filmmakers who are held in high regard by people who hold this film in contempt (it's tonally very close to Jodorowski's "Santa Sangre"). I for one am glad I've seen it. It's not perfect, but it's thought provoking, well made and less self indulgent than a lot of recent art-house fare from culty sacred cows ("Inland Empire," anyone?). Most people will find their way to this film as part of their Bertolucci completism. Some may be Tina Aumont obsessed. I don't think either will be greatly disappointed.
Movie making is a form of expression that has in recent years been subject to a mold of narrative. The Partner is a genuine example of a film that does not comform to the standard. As always Bertolucci was able to draw performances that transform t characters he created into tangable moments. Particularly remarkable is Pierre Clementi's performance of a man with two identities. Made at the early age of 22, this film is a window into an artist mind. Open your mind and just allow yourself to enjoy the ride.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Bertolucci's third feature is one of his greatest films yet it's not
very well known despite it's beautiful use of colour and 'Scope and a
great and unique musical score from Ennio Morricone.
Maybe because the subject matter or the theme of the film is very oblique and fairly intricate and more subtle than his later direct tackling of themes such as class, sex and identity and also unlike ''Fight Club'' which deals with the same themes it doesn't become schizophrenic and fall in love with what it is against. It also has one of the greatest performances of the 60's from Pierre Clementi, a French-Italian actor(who worked with Luis Bunuel and Philippe Garrel). In this film, he plays a student who is disaffected and alienated, his life is transformed when he meets his "double"(the film is a loose adaptation of the Dostoyevsky story ''The Double'') who is everything he isn't. Bertolucci doesn't attempt to explain the two Clementis and refuses to spell out that either is a hallucination(the conceit of the film as it develops is the difficulty to tell apart which is which).
The film's tone is largely comic for most of the film including a hilarious and shocking send-up of Hollywood romances in the scene where Giaccobe(Clementi) and his beloved Clara(the luminous Stefania Sandrelli) plan to elope. But the tone of the film is also disturbing on other occasions as Clementi's character commits many acts of murder as the film moves along including one of the most upsetting and gruesomely cruel murder scenes in film history. The style of the film doesn't have a clear plot and is essentially a series of digressions. The film's style is intensely subjective and never abandons Giacchobe's point-of-view and some aspects of the film can be seen as dreams or hallucinations and others develop surprisingly including a suggestion of a narrative leap near the end. The music score by Ennio Morricone is avant-guarde enough to meet the challenge. The complete score played over the opening credits features four themes, each distinct and disjunctive, a quartet which during the film rotates in various junctures at various times sometimes diagetically appearing in the action other times working conventionally in the background. It's unlike any other score I have ever heard, beautiful and strange to listen to.
The film is one of the most interesting works made at the late 60's and it's location footage of Rome in colour is fairly unique for an Italian film of that period. It is a film that is Bertolucci's most Nouvelle-Vagueish with Godardian monologues on theatre and cinema, digressions on Artaud, attacks on consumerism but it's also one which is fully Bertolucci rather than a work of a dilettante. The visual design is a curious mixture of German Expressionism(F. W. Murnau) and Hollywood 'Scope pageants(Nicholas Ray), while some of the visual and editing tricks seem to come from Hitchcock(red thunder from ''Marnie'') and of all people, Jerry Lewis(''The Nutty Professor'' - from the foregrounding of the soft red and cobalt blue throughout the film right down to the white fadeaway it ends).
Bertolucci's exuberant non-realism allows him to directly confront the audience with the preoccupations and contradictions of Giacchobe and his generation all the while conveying the emotional confusion of his characters. It is perhaps dated to an extent since it's firmly addressed to the issues of the late 60's student unrest(May '68 happened when this film was in production) but it's also a film about confusion, about passivity, a psychological exploration of the main character's pathology and his charm and also sets up the themes that Bertolucci touches on ''Il Conformista''. The search for one's identity, the conflict between rebellion and conformism, the blurring lines in sexual and social politics. And it's all done in a manner that is very funny and light. The abrupt ending of the film which raises a lot of questions is one which the viewer can ponder endlessly for themselves. And Pierre Clementi's tour-de-force performance makes this just as much his film as it is Bertolucci's, anyone interested in a great performance by a charismatic if obscure European star that is emotional and simultaneously physical and sensual than this is the place to go.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I was at Amoeba Music(A Hollywood Record Shop) the other day with my roommate and I had found this in the used section and it seemed interesting. I had never heard of it before and I didn't have the cash to buy it, but my roommate did, and bought it instead. I think this was one of the best films I've ever seen. The story is apparently an adaptation of a Dostoevsky story called "The Double",(which I've never read), the film is about a young Theater professor in the sixties, who begins losing his mind, and seeing an identical version of himself who begins giving him orders, egging him on to commit acts of terrorism, murder, and just generally insane things. It precedes Fight Club by thirty years. A remarkable film, from a great director in his own right, before Last Tango In Paris, there was Partner. A funny, smart, riot of a film, that creates tension and absurd explosion with the same grace, conjoined like deformed twins at the hip.
While the often noticed aping by Bertolucci of his hero Godard in this
early film is quite true (even the film itself admits its debt to
Godard right on screen), there is more here than mere imitation.
Whether intentional or not I saw plenty of other influences from
Bunuel, to the paintings if Rene Magritte. A loose, examination of
schizophrenia; an inhibited intellectual young man spawns a separate
self who is confident, aggressive and revolutionary.
While vaguely based on Dostoyevsky's "The Double", this is very much it's own story, and a hell of a lot of fun. I found Bertolucci's surreal playfulness more inviting than most of Godard's work from that period. It asks many of the same questions, and has much of the same distain for modern consumer society, (and film narrative conventions) but does it with an absurdist sense of humor that give rise to some moments that now seem as much "Monty Python" as they are French New Wave.
The most egregious Godard rip-offs can be annoying (sudden inappropriate music, etc), but they are for the most part mercifully brief. Mostly this is more influence and homage than theft, and creates a time capsule that still has relevance and interest, and pleasure in the watching. Pierre Clementi does a fine job playing the two different versions of the hero Giaccobe.
Yes we know that many people think that life is absurd and meaningless and society is hopeless. Fortunately many more still think that life has a meaning and society can be reformed and changed. This movie also intends to pass another message which is that life is not real and only the theatre is real. Well the great German poet, Novalis, once said that poetry is the absolute real but that had quite another sense perhaps. Anyway what we watch here is a succession of scenes and dialogues void of any meaning at all and of any plot that can be followed. Bertolucci is a great film director but I think that this movie doesn't honour him at all.
After that it degenerates into an exercise in employing old art film cliches. Though he bases his movie on the Dostoyevsky story 'The Double', Bertolucci apparently has no message, and no original way to present it. By the end this movie has dragged you through a tedium of stupidity and indulgence. This is the kind of film that gives art movies a bad name. 4/10
Bertolucci was heavily indebted to Godard and the other French New Wave directors in his sophomore feature, Before the Revolution. His third feature, Partner, has him follow Godard into his fin de cinema. Partner is a purely experimental film with little narrative. It's definitely a turn for the worst for Bertolucci. Thankfully he was drawn back into narrative cinema with his fourth film, The Conformist. Partner is worth seeing for fans of the director and New Wave enthusiasts. It has some interesting points. The minimal plot of the film has Pierre Clémenti playing a man with split personalities. Most of the rest of it is made up of random vignettes. Some are amusing, some are annoying. Some are just plain boring. Unfortunately, there just aren't enough amusing ones to make it an easy watch. Clémenti is excellent, and Bertolucci lives up to his reputation as one of the cinema's greatest visual minds. Stefania Sandrelli, who would go on to star in The Conformist, appears briefly with curly blonde hair. She doesn't do much, but she's gorgeous.
A terrible example of what happens when a talented director imitates an
attention-seeking charlatan, Bertolucci's Partner is forgotten with
good reason his Godardian take on Dostoyevsky's The Double is pretty
awful. Like Godard, it's full of slogans and soundbites which don't
gain in profundity by being repeated six times or more at varying
volumes instead of substance, constantly throwing them at the screen in
the hope that something will stick, but he amps up the surrealism with
Pierre Clementi's absurd (in the dictionary definition) performance.
Whether he's shouting at the screen or fighting with invisible enemies
or himself, there's never any danger of him being remotely believable
or entertaining so that when he finally does meet his double (who he
keeps in a closet) we've already dismissed him as a tiresome attention
seeing moron on day release from the local asylum. It's the kind of
performance that'll have you yearning for the subtle underplaying of
Crispin Glover. He does improve as the film goes along and the
characters exchange identities, but he's successfully alienated you
from the film by then.
Technically it's impressive, with the shot in-camera effects scenes of the two Clementi's extremely well-timed, Bertolucci even acknowledging the artificiality of the device by having them disappear mid-frame in one memorable moment. There's a little bit more involvement with his theme than you get with Godard for all the surface 'provocation' (read tiresome and infantile attention seeking) it does acknowledge that the intellectuals it wants to address (and does directly in the end) are incapable of real revolution because they tie themselves up in imaginary intellectual knots rather than act. Just as Easy Rider now plays as a film that puts you off drugs because the characters just act like uncool morons when they're high, this now seems more a parody of self-important radicals proposing ineffectual actions than a document of a real revolution. And there's a nice sendup of Fellini and other Italian directors' use of numbers instead of dialogue when shooting without sound (Bertolucci shot with live sound at a time when most Italian films were shot mute and dubbed later)
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