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
For a while, forget about Bernardo Bertolucci's "ventures into Hollywood" (for example, "Little Buddha," featuring Keannu Reeves) and find time to see his "little-known" work, "Before the Revolution" (his second feature film, which was made in his native country and when he was just 22 years old).
More than a "nostalgic" tribute to the "present," the film is closer in spirit and style to the French New Wave films (see, for example, Jean-Luc Godard's "A Bout de Souffle" and Francois Truffaut's "Jules et Jim";as a matter of fact, Bertolucci's film was contemporaneous with these works).
In the film, you'll find a bedazzling mixture of narrative styles (those relating to camera movements and angles, editing, photographic effects and musical score;my favorites are the "optical room" scene and the old man painting by the lakeside), characters who are always "running away" from something (from social conventions and pressures, from others as well as from themselves) and for whom to live is to discourse (with other people or with themselves), and a "romantic" and "apolitical" stance toward a relevant sociopolitical issue ( in this case, the workers' uprising and the Revolution of 1948).
Initially slow and hard to get by, but the film eventually engages the viewers' attention as "love" starts to develop between the aunt (Gina) and the nephew (Fabrizio), which other people may find "scandalous," but is treated in such a casual and indifferent manner that the result is "unaffecting" (much like the way the menage-a-trois was treated in "Jules et Jim"), and as one gets to know more (or does one?) the quirky and enigmatic characters.
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