Tragedy of a Ridiculous Man (1981) Poster

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Far from Bertolucci's best
RResende31 August 2003
I see this film in straight connection with La Strategia del ragno also directed by Bertolucci 11 years before this one. Only with characters inversion, meaning that in this one the father goes along find out things about his son, hidden things, beyond what he looked like. In the 1970 film it is the son who finds out the life of his late father, his hidden secrets. Still I found the older movie much more appealing, in terms of the plot itself but also in terms of the direction also. It is obvious that a good plot estimulates direction but still this one could have been better. It has from times to times the quality seal from Bertolucci, but in general it's not as good as others. The end is very delayed, the film could have less 20 minutes that it would be better to watch. Some beautiful images along the time, as usual in Bertolucci, but than again somewhat meaningless as they are not many times in the context of the story.

Though the film touches some important issues, such as terrorism in Italy's 1980'. Also interesting in exploring how a man can 'use the blood' of his own son just to get himself out of a difficult financial position. Not much more than this. It's worth watching if you like Bertolucci or if you have special interest in italian cinema. But don't judge the director just on this one. It is unfair, specially if we think that his second film after this one was The Last Emperor...
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Interesting if not quite compelling, with tonal shifts from drama to near farcical satire
runamokprods30 November 2013
Well acted by Ugo Tognanzzi as a self made cheese factory owner whose son is apparently kidnapped, although we can see there's a real possibility the kidnapping was staged so the son could raise money for left-wing causes he supports. Most of the film is about Tognazzi dealing with the kidnapping by pondering selling his factory, and getting to know two go betweens who may or may not have there own agendas (the son's girlfriend, and a leftist sort-of priest), as well as dealing with his wife, Anouk Aimee, who is far more anxious to sell everything they own to pay the kidnappers than the more cynical and wily Tognazzi.

What was hard for me was that, unlike it's spiritual forerunner "The Spider's Strategem", the more satirical, lighter-toned edge seems to work against the drama and vice versa. None-the- less this is interesting and thought provoking. And if not among Bertolucci's greatest works, still well worth seeing.
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Bertolucci's Most Underrated Work
axpalm29 February 2016
A decade after the worldwide success of LAST TANGO and a half-dozen years following his ambitious failure NOVECENTO (1900), Bernardo Bertolucci makes his most restrained, workmanlike and nuanced film.

There's nothing as stylish as there is in his great film THE CONFORMIST, there's no Marlon Brando as the last American in Paris as there is in TANGO, there's only a wholly-realized work, full of quiet daring.

Ugo Tognazzi, a veteran of Italian film and theater, is Primo Spaggiari, a cheese factory owner in Northern Italy, who accidentally witnesses the kidnapping of his only son.

Flanked by his glamorous French wife, played by the accomplished Anouk Aimee, his son's radical, sexy girlfriend, played by the talented Laura Morante, and a priest who seems capable of anything, actor Victor Cavallo... the drama unfolds. A cloud of mystery hangs over the autumnal landscape. A director who made his career an Oedipal quest in search of the father, now turns his gaze around... the father searches for his son.

Bertolucci, working with his actors and aided by veteran cinematographer Carlo Di Palma, who made his name working with Michelangelo Antonioni (RED DESERT and BLOW-UP), transforms the countryside of Emilia (where he's from) and the estate with the factory, into a vast theater of contemporary Greek tragedy. The stunning shot of large cheese wheels in the factory refrigerator that Spaggiari refers to as his "Fort Knox," Spaggiari's bicycle ride across the city of Parma that is a small time capsule of postwar Italian cinema and the beguiling ending are scenes that, alone, would make this film worth seeing.

I've watched this film a number of times at repertory cinemas, on television, and on old VHS. It grows with each viewing. Something new to see or discover every time I watch it and WATCHING is one of the various themes of this film. It's a major crime that such a film is not on DVD or Blu ray in North America.

A hearty thank you to Bertolucci for this superb work, his most underrated film.
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