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,
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The study of a youth on the edge of adulthood and his aunt, ten years older. Fabrizio is passionate, idealistic, influenced by Cesare, a teacher and Marxist, engaged to the lovely but bourgeois Clelia, and stung by the drowning of his mercurial friend Agostino, a possible suicide. Gina is herself a bundle of nervous energy, alternately sweet, seductive, poetic, distracted, and unhinged. They begin a love affair after Agostino's funeral, then Gina confuses Fabrizio by sleeping with a stranger. Their visits to Cesare and then to Puck, one of Gina's older friends, a landowner losing his land, dramatize contrasting images of Italy's future. Their own futures are bleak.Written by
One of the most stunning pieces of filmmaking I've ever seen
Before the Revolution, Bernardo Bertolucci's second film, is kind of a mess. He was only 22 when he made it, and he must have made it immediately after he finished his first film, Grim Reaper. It's obvious that he's a genius from this film. Like I said, it's kind of a mess, but no more beautiful mess has ever been created in the cinema.
The story is difficult to follow at times, but it is basically about a young bourgeois man who falls in love with his young aunt. Their relationship is socially unacceptable, so it immediately begins to break apart. As it does, politics rush into the film, confused politics, probably representing Bertolucci's own conflicting feelings at this point. The whole film feels very personal.
I don't know. I really didn't catch too much of, well, what's going on. Which sounds bad, but there's a good reason for my missing everything: Bertolucci's direction is breathtaking. It is a nice cross between French New Wave and the Modernist movement that the Italian filmmakers were going through at the time. Bertolucci throws every single cinematic trick into the film that he can fathom. Everything works, though. It's showy, to be sure, but it's never less than one of the most beautiful things I've ever experienced. It never seems less than amazing. The emotions of the film - and they really hit home, even if the story is difficult to follow - are fractured and manic.
I need to watch Before the Revolution again. I feel, though, that even if I find it completely flawed the second time around, it could be nothing less than the greatest flawed masterpiece ever produced. 10 years after Before the Revolution, Bernardo Bertolucci directed what I consider my third favorite film, Last Tango in Paris. By then, he had perfected his style. I'll be adding another Bertolucci film to my list of favorites tonight.
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