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A pinnacle of the Italian New Wave
flickhead10 July 2008
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.
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PARTNER (Bernardo Bertolucci, 1968) **1/2
Bunuel197624 August 2006
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 evident here.

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)...
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A lot of fun for an experimental, revolutionary tract.
runamokprods1 December 2013
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.
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Where acting, directing and art meet
ed-16013 April 2002
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.
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Now on DVD from No Shame
zetes14 December 2008
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.
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Of Dopplegangers And Molotov Cocktails
loganx-213 December 2007
Warning: 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.
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Cinema of the absurd
valadas17 February 2006
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.
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Exuberance carries this film half way.
darth-chico8 October 2001
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
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The Nutty Professor as remade by Bernardo Bertolucci in the 60's.
artihcus02219 September 2008
Warning: 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.
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A fascinating evocation of the times
jonchopwood20 February 2004
This rather ludicrous exchange takes place at the end of David Lean's adaptation of Boris Pasternak's epic novel DR. ZHIVAGO:

Gen. Yevgraf Zhivago: Tonya, can you play the balalaika?

Tonya's Boyfriend: Can she play? She's an artist!

This dialogue, as well as the scene within the framing device of Yuri Zhivago's brother Yevgraf finding Yuri's love child with Lara and telling her about her "past," appears nowhere in the novel. Instead, in an epilogue in the novel, two of the many characters, after the end of the Great Patriotic War (World War II), talk about how one had met this love child at the front. Their ruminations illustrate the great dislocations caused by the Revolution, Stalin's Terror, and the War. Nowhere does something as silly and trivial as the question "Can you play the balalaika?" appear in the novel.

Movies that use great events as backdrops to personal stories tend to trivialize the great events and make the intimate lives of their characters rather absurd and trivial (ironically, the very charge Strelnikov makes to Zhivago, in reference to his poetry, in Lean's movie). Great events such as revolutions wash over everyone and have to be handled with the greatest care to avoid this fundamental absurdity of the events being greater than the individuals.

Before "The Dreamers," Bertolucci already made his film that ruminates on the events of '68 and its aftermath in the year itself:

"Partner" ("Il Sosia"), based on Dostoyevsky's "The Double." It is very interesting, and very honest, look at the spirit of the times and I highly recommend it.
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Cinema Omnivore - Partner (1968) 6.9/10
lasttimeisaw24 February 2023
"Bertolucci's juvenilia, his Venice Golden Lion-nominated third feature PARTNER, made when he was 28, released months after the May 68 unrest, is an antisocial, subversive manifesto re-moulded out of Dostoevsky's novella "The Double" and has the Vietnamese flag prominently featured in it.

Clémenti plays Giacobbe, a young college professor, cynical, unstable, romantically frustrated, even psychotic and homicidal, meets his alter ego. Like two peas in a pod, they live together in Giacobbe's book-stacked apartment, but dissimilar to Dostoevsky's text, PARTNER doesn't overtly demarcate their disparate personalities, for most of the time, audience cannot tell which Giacobbe is present when only one of them is shown. "

read my full review on my blog: Cinema Omnivore, please google it, thanks.
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A powerful testament of an era and a provoking metaphor about the double inside of us
Rodrigo_Amaro23 March 2020
May 1968. That month and that year, all in particular, were a redefining moment all over the world in the historical, cultural, artistic, political and social context of its era. It was a time for a revolution that didn't necessarily changed things but at least the youth tried. You have the ongoing Vietnam War, Cold War in constant rise; protests in many countries - being the one in France against DeGaulle one of the most significant ones; military intervention in Latin Americas; black power, women's liberation, sexual liberation; it had a bit of everything and since things weren't changing all that much thanks to a powerful system that refused to reverse their policies the mankind's hope for a better future would be or would happen (people thought) in 1969. Nothing changed except that the years of innocence had gone and what came in the next decade was that the loud cries and screams of the unheard youth and minorities got louder and louder enough to expand for a gradual change of pace and costumes. But least they put a man on the moon!

Back to May '68, Bernardo Bertolucci was a young filmmaker who lived through all of that and made two different movies in two different times about that particular time in history. The first was "Partner.", released around the mentioned events; the second was his last best work "The Dreamers" (2003). While the latter captures the essence, the echoes, the sight and the nostalgia of being young at a revolutionary time, the other film was the look from an observer of events reporting his ideas and how he's going to use it, to blend with the crowd and go against the system, to fight everything that's wrong with the establishment. Art imitates life and vice-versa, and Bertolucci using of such notion created two distinctive perception of time and effect, proving a right theory. It's no longer a theory, it's a fact. "Partner." is a look on the possibilities on how art and artists could change the world as long as they could get out of their bedrooms and be revolutionary. They tried but they failed.

On the other hand, when "The Dreamers" concludes with the Paris protests, the barricades and people fighting with the police, the director is telling us that getting out of the room and fighting for a noble cause to change the world is worth doing but...he never shows us the aftermath because the title says it all. It's all about dreamers, a generation of idealistic dreamers but they could only make a revolution inside their bedrooms, in their intimacy but not gathering in the streets. The trio of youngsters of "The Dreamers" aren't so much different than the double character played by Pierre Clémenti in "Partner.", an almost forgotten film by Bertolucci, appropriate for its time but one that didn't find much of an audience, unlike the 2003 film got.

The film has its basis on Dostoyesvsky's "The Double" and what Bertolucci does is put into his own current context in Italy. Jacob is a young art student trying to develop a play that breaks concepts, presents new artistic views but he's too stranded within himself or the life around him. Everything seems to suffocate him or block him.

Suddenly, a second version of himself - the double Jacob - appears to him trying to make him come out of his shell, be bold, create his revolutionary work with his mates, and challenge the political status quo of his era. The encouragement the original Jacob needed is a turning point where he frees himself from the ordinary, the routine; dares to put firm terms into his relationship with a girl; and allows him to be more engaged with his art and adequally present to his colleagues what's the real idea they must put into practice either if doing a play or a movie that can change the game, challenge the system whether making a film about everything, shoot it as you like it or to be like Godard (that's the part that kills me a little, since Bernardo is "revealing" the idol behind the idea. If you look at "Partner." you'll find that it rings more like Godard than Bertolucci); or you can cause commotions, blackouts, stop a whole city in order to crash the system and allow people to see that there's still love and freedom outside of leaders telling us what to do.

Let's take out the masks and present the real version of ourselves is what the film tells us, but in doing so it reveals a painful truth to us: we all have a double inside of each of us, and it's not necessarily a better version of ourselves but it's definitely more daring, more risky, more unconventional and a version that isn't much presentable or suitable to all people, to society in general or even to our relatives. But truth be told, that second version despite facing more dangers or more opposition is a true part of ourselves, we don't lie to anyone anymore, we don't fear things anymore. That's a revolutionary act, to stop being so borgeouise and join the crowd to make the world a better place to live for, a more fair place and with people who don't need masks as tools of survival. Why? Because we'll be no longer living on a sick and polluted society filled with hipocrisy, hatred and contempt. There's space for love, friendship, trust and embrace all the noble causes. Jacob doesn't use of those notions but he transmits such things, him and his double, effectively made without special effects, it's all mirrors and camera tricks that make us believe Pierre Clementi has a clone.

Obviously that the cinematic art form used of this device of a double (as if it were real, one guy split in two) to stir audiences into thinking, reacting and if possible to liberate that hidden part we hide because we're too frightened, too ashamed and mostly because we won't find similar allies to share our views, just as much Jacob finds out as the movie progresses and sees that his mates abandoned him right after the exposition of his idealistic rebelness. Looking through the glass of life and experiences, to reach our double is easy but to present it to ourselves and to the world, freely and without reservations can be dangerous and aren't accepted by society - and gotta admit, most of the time the 2nd version of ourselves isn't all the artsy or one that wants to change the world. Most of the time the double elevates our egoistic side so we can feel free from the pressures of the world (addictions, change of behaviors, you name it; so we are partners of ourselves...two in one and nothing else. Before changing the world, start the change with yourself, said Gandhi and that perfectly applies to Jacob, an almost useless tool to the world who has the ideas to break it from the frame but can't barely develop a good change inside himself and his relations, his acceptance in knowing that somethings cannot be changed. He belongs to the youth culture of '68, they have plenty in common but unfortunately he's not mature enough to be there with them; nor even it's in a place where he can use his ideas to give a message to the system.

While in France, youngsters were surrounded by barricades of objects to prevent police movements, Jacob's barricade consists of a room full of books, so many books growing and growing into the space, filling his brain with thoughts and ideas yet filling his eyes with tears because he can't move. The books aren't stopping him from moving or walking, it's more like a paralysis of the brain. So many interesting ideas to change the world around him but it's too difficult to put them together and go to action. Thankfully, his double is smarter than him and sees reality with more clarity...let's just say it isn't pretty but it's the reality "both" have to face.

Bertolucci's film is not your ordinary Bertolucci film filled with controversy, romance or large athmospheres as "The Last Emperor". In fact, it's possibly his most difficult work to follow due to its unorthodox structure filled with cuts, sparse dialogues and monologues from the main character, who rambles from most of the time which some may consider pretentious or too random to follow, in simple words the man just went nuts. Bertolucci didn't make a film that had its personal style and touch; it's pretty much like what was Godard doing, therefore it's a Godard-like experience rather than one from the Italian master and one may find it disorienting. To me, "Partner." is a revealing, artistic and challenging work that mirrors the experience of what being an idealistic young person was back in 1968: courageous but not much practic; to understand and fight reality but unfortunately without having the necessary weapons to fight a good battle - today we have the internet, social medias, petitions which are all good but on the other hand the art got too limited to cause a commotion and shake the world; it's all too limited. The books, the films, the music are all tools that became mass product to entertain and no longer make us reflect the time in which we live in. It's hard to feel in tune with the current status of our world.

The close we get from causing a mass reaction in our society is by capturing moments of unjustice, chaos and brutality with our mobiles. It's not cinema, it's not art but it shapes the world we live in, it becomes news and with luck we can make a change in the world but not as a whole. On a final note, "Partner." gives Pierre Clémenti's best performance of all along with Marcel from "Belle de Jour". He has plenty of range, expressions, the movie is all his and he convincingly plays both the troubled Jacob and the confident Jacob to such an extent that there are times when the audience is no longer sure of which Jacob is out in the world causing a revolution. What can I's different. 8/10.
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Bertolucci's surrealism
guisreis12 April 2022
Interesting and amusing surrealist movie, although perhaps too long. It has many funny moments, bizarre and nonsense situations and dialogs, experiments with sounds, nice art direction and colourful cinematography, immersive soundtrack. I loved the shadows' scene, a very cartoonish one.
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