Bernardo Bertolucci, along with co-scenarist Gianni Amico, used Dostoievski's 1846, pre-imprisonment novella The Double: A Petersburg Poem, which they moved to Italy and updated to the pro-Vietcong student-protest present,
Ondrej, a young boy who loves bees and bats, is introduced to his new mother, a woman much younger than his father. He brings her a basketful of flowers which she starts to throw in the air... See full summary »
I took copious notes when finally getting a chance to see this nearly 40 year-old foreign film, but I'll try to keep my review brief: you need to watch this one to capture its flavor. Typical of the experimental movies of the '60s and '70s, it's a take it or leave it, abstract exercise.
My favorite French heartthrob Sami Frey is well-cast as a cruise ship tour guide, his long hair flashing in the wind romantically when called for. Though top-billed, lustrous Delphine Seyrig is more of a guest star, as the interpreter aboard ship whom we want Sami to make it with, but in these abstract (dare I say Marienbad genre?) films they merely schmooze.
Film is effectively shot in black & white, with many shots and scenes later on presented in a variety of tints, the format of Silent Cinema. There are brief outbursts of color, but the b&w plus monochrome tints dominates.
Main story is introduced about three reels into the film, with Marie-France Pisier cast against type as a revolutionary, later imprisoned after a bombing goes awry. Sacha Pitoeff steals the movie as her jailer, a dour but ultimately sympathetic personage with tons of back story and a screen presence that puts his three certified Superstar co-stars to shame. The trendy casting of Delphine, Sami and M-F, all very hot back then, is typical of these Euro experiments (see: Alain Robbe-Grillet, master of the form).
It takes forever for the plot strands, flashbacks and coincidences to coalesce, but filmmaker Stanislav Stanojevic delivers a very satisfying Chris Nolan-style tying up scene built around a stage show that Sami attends, featuring a chanteuse and her violent partner. It's worth waiting for. The ongoing film buff discussion of art vs. commerce is relevant here: like so many experimental directors Stanojevic never got a viable career going.
Given its genre, film also includes sexploitation elements, notably a gratuitous but "goods delivered" scene in color of full frontal nudity involving five beautiful prostitutes that Pitoeff visited at a brothel back when he was a young soldier. I doubt if this film was ever shown in America, but it's worth a look, especially if you're a Frey and Seyrig completist like me.
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