The Spider's Stratagem (1970)
“Very few directors can claim a lifetime experience so passionately committed to contemporary cinema like Bertolucci’s. His work has explored with insatiable curiosity the world around us and the ever evolving language of film, discovering and bringing to our attention what’s most vital and beautiful. Such commitment to “the present” is one of the finest services that cinema can render to itself and is one of the many reasons why Bertolucci is the ideal Jury President” stated the Director of the Venice Film Festival Alberto Barbera.
“I cheerfully accept to chair the jury of the 70th Venice International Film Festival,” stated Bernardo Bertolucci . “This is my second time. In 1983 the Venice Film Festival was celebrating its 40th edition.
Although the Argentinian director and screenwriter Eduardo de Gregorio, who has died aged 70, had lived in Paris since 1970, his work was always identifiably South American. This can be attributed to the overpowering influence of the labyrinthine stories of Jorge Luis Borges on a generation of South American artists.
De Gregorio brought this Borgesian aura to bear on the five features he directed, and on the screenplays he wrote with Jacques Rivette and Bernardo Bertolucci. In fact, for the latter's The Spider's Stratagem (1970), De Gregorio adapted the Borges story Theme of the Traitor and the Hero, smoothly transposing it from Ireland to Italy. It was an elaborate piece of Oedipal plotting in which, revisiting the village in the Po valley where his father was murdered in 1936, a young man discovers that his father was not a hero, but a traitor.
Bernardo Bertolucci's expressionist masterpiece of 1970, The Conformist, is the movie that plugs postwar Italian cinema firmly and directly into the emerging 1970s renaissance in Hollywood film-making. Its account of the neuroses and self-loathing of a sexually confused would-be fascist (Jean-Louis Trintignant) aching to fit in in 1938 Rome, who is despatched to Paris to murder his former, anti-fascist college professor, was deemed an instant classic on release.
It was, and is, a highly self-conscious and stylistically venturesome pinnacle of late modernism, drawing from the full range of recent Italian movie history: a little neo-neorealism, a lot of stark and blinding Antonioni-style mise-en-scène, some moments redolent of Fellini. And it was all framed within an evocation of the frivolous fascist-era film-making style derided
There's a great moment in Carol Reed's Odd Man Out: James Mason spills a drink, looks into its bubbles, and sees his troubles in them. Twenty years later, Jean-Luc Godard, who admired Reed, had a similar scene in his movie Two or Three Things I Know About Her. Ten years after that, Martin Scorsese had Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver stare into the bubbles of a drink. Scorsese is a fan of Reed and Godard. To watch such a visual idea pass from film-maker to film-maker is to look into the DNA of the movies.
Cinema has been the autobiography of our times, glammed up like biographies often are. But the hoopla about its box office, the pay packets of movie stars and the production costs of blockbusters
In his early career, which forms the first half of this two-month retrospective, Bertolucci seems to have lived for danger. He was fascinated by eroticism and politics and the connections between them, which, combined with his fluid visual moves, made his films pulse with life. Even before the scandalous Last Tango In Paris, he'd dealt with fascism, murder, terrorism, incest and other hot potatoes in films like The Conformist, La Luna, The Spider's Stratagem and Before The Revolution. His career went widescreen and international, with the star-studded 1900, Oscar triumph The Last Emperor and so on, but the visual mastery never deserted him. Bertolucci himself is in conversation next Saturday and curator David Thompson gives a talk on 14 Apr.
BFI Southbank, SE1, Thu to 30 Apr
Radiophonic Weekend, Bristol
The BBC's unlikely incubator of British electronica gets an aptly boffinish-yet-uber-cool tribute, with films, music, talks and cosmic oscillations from
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