January 19, 2018
1311.) The third part of my ongoing tribute to the work of Deceased Artiste Bernardo Bertolucci focuses on just one film, but what a film! Bertolucci’s passion project, 1900, is an epic tale of landowners and peasants in 20th-century Italy that is ripe with wonderful performances, some gorgeous visuals and music, and several over-the-top moments that you’ll never forget. The film tells the story of the interaction between the scion of a family of landowners (Robert De Niro) and his best friend, the legacy bearer of a family of peasants (Gerard Depardieu, at his all-time thinnest). The film runs from the birth of the two lead characters – their family patriarchs are played by Burt Lancaster and Sterling Hayden! – through their adults lives, with their respective wives (Dominque Sanda and Stefania Sandrelli). Donald Sutherland gives an unforgettably gonzo performance as the local head of the blackshirts, a fascist so mean he kills animals and children with much abandon. The film is one of Bertolucci’s most ambitious (“The Last Emperor” is a controlled work next to this one) and is uneven (particularly in the full five-hour international cut, which is now the one on DVD and in repertory) but has some of the memorable moments he ever directed. And, as he put it, he employed “multinational capitalist means [read: money from three H’wood studios] to produce a naive, edifying vision” about the glory of the Communist party in Italy.