Monday, 29 August 2011

Focus on Bertolucci announced

Last Tango in Paris
Last Tango in Paris

"One of the most fascinating and gifted filmmakers of his, or any other, generation" Senses of Cinema

"One of the grandest stylists of post-war cinema" TIFF Bell Lightbox

The Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI) announce Focus on Bertolucci - a career survey of the acclaimed auteur whose films fuse stylistic lyricism with provocative explorations of sexuality and ideology - which will screen over 20 days from Thursday 20 October. 

Focus on Bertolucci is a complete retrospective of the director's oeuvre featuring new 35mm prints, several struck under the supervision of the original cinematographers; Vittorio Storaro (Bertolucci's Director of Photography on eight features including The Conformist, Last Tango in Paris, 1900 and The Last Emperor), Darius Khondji and Fabio Cianchetti. In this season, Bertolucci's feature-length and short films are complemented by three documentaries on the director.

ACMI Film Programmer Roberta Ciabarra says Focus on Bertolucci offers a unique experience for cinema goers in Australia.

"ACMI's season offers a rare and unprecedented opportunity to trace the stylistic and thematic preoccupations in Bertolucci's remarkable career in a definitive retrospective presented in new 35mm prints," says Roberta.
"Bertolucci's stylistic virtuosity fuses seamlessly with the director's thematic concerns, yielding fascinating and often provocative excursions into ideology and eroticism drawn from the director's deep and abiding affinity with influences from Marx to Freud."

Born 1941 in Parma, in Italy's Emilia Romagna region, and raised in a rarefied cultural milieu, the young Bertolucci distinguished himself as an award-winning poet before discovering the cinematic muse that would define and shape his career. Moving confidently beyond the influence of early mentors Pier Paolo Pasolini and Jean-Luc Godard, Bertolucci's aesthetic sensibilities evolved into a mature signature style, characterised by palpably sensual, endlessly roving, fluid camerawork, that he would most notably elaborate and refine in a decades-long creative partnership with acclaimed cinematographer Vittorio Storaro.

The season opens with Bertolucci's breakthrough feature from 1964, Before the Revolution (Prima della rivoluzione), a film that debuted at Cannes, where it received the Critics' prize, and which confidently expresses Bertolucci's evolving stylistic, political and thematic inclinations at the time.

At 21 years of age, Bertolucci made his directorial debut with The Grim Reaper (La commare secca, 1962), which premiered at the Venice Film Festival. Based on a story by mentor Pier Paolo Pasolini, The Grim Reaper is centred on a police investigation following the violent death of a Roman streetwalker. The film's fluid camerawork and visually striking lyrical excursions signalled the emergence of Bertolucci's signature style.

Focus on Bertolucci will also feature the premiere screening of Oil (La via del petrolio, 1967). Restored to coincide with the presentation of a career Golden Lion to Bertolucci at the 2007 Venice Film Festival, Oil is the director's only foray into feature length documentaries.

A sure highlight for cinefiles, Last Tango in Paris (Ultimo tango a Parigi, 1972) is Bertolucci's most renowned erotic drama. The film follows young Parisian woman, Jeanne (Maria Schneider), who decides to pursue an anonymous sexual liaison with a middle-aged American man, Paul (Marlon Brando), who is reeling from the recent suicide of his wife. The New Yorker called it "the most powerfully erotic movie ever made. a landmark in movie history."

The season also offers an opportunity to see the uncut 1900 (Novecento, 1976), Bertolucci's sprawling historical drama of 20th Century Italian history and politics. 1900 focuses on two men born on the same day in 1900. Robert De Niro plays the son of wealthy landowners, while Gerard Depardieu stars as the illegitimate child of one of the peasants that have for generations toiled on the landowner's estate.

La Luna (1979) is a taboo-busting family drama that fearlessly explores the realm of the maternal. The late American actress Jill Clayburgh is Caterina, an opera singer on tour in Italy with her increasingly sullen and disaffected teenage son in what is arguably Bertolucci's most provocative film.

Bertolucci's acclaimed 1987 epic and the first in his Eastern trilogy, The Last Emperor, is widely regarded as one of his best cinematic works, winner of nine Academy Awards including Best Film and Best Director. The Last Emperor is an intimate drama centred on the extraordinary life of Pu Yi, who was made emperor in 1908 at the age of three, on the eve of four decades of radically transformative political and cultural upheaval in China's history.  An epic in scale and geopolitical terms, Bertolucci and his crew were granted unprecedented access to Beijing locations inside the Forbidden City. The Sheltering Sky (1990) stars Debra Winger and John Malkovich as Americans abroad in an erotically charged adaptation of John Bowles' cult 1949 novel. The final film in the Eastern trilogy, Little Buddha (1993), interweaves two narratives: a modern-day search by a Buddhist monk for his reincarnated teacher in Seattle and a vividly rendered recreation of the story of Siddhartha, the first Buddha. With Little Buddha, Bertolucci enthusiastically embraced new technologies with a striking use of digital special effects.

Set in the warm, heady ripeness of summer, Stealing Beauty (1996), made a star of Liv Tyler in her role as a young woman in Tuscany to track down her biological father and take a lover, soon finding she has a motley assortment of would-be seducers in her thrall including an English playwright played by Jeremy Irons.

In The Dreamers (2003), Bertolucci's young protagonists come together when a young American visiting Paris for the first time to immerse himself in the cinephile culture of the Cinematheque Francaise (just as Bertolucci did), befriends a self-consciously coquettish young Parisian and her brooding, handsome twin brother. Mutually fascinated, the trio's rapport soon develops from film-buff gamesmanship into erotic interplay. The Dreamers revels in "the incorrigible voluptuousness of Bertolucci's style" (Senses of Cinema) - complete with a recreation of the scene in which the trio in Godard's Bande a Part (1964) run through the Louvre - and is shot through with the then sixty-something director's nostalgia for a time that seemed immensely ripe with political and cultural revolutionary fervour.

This comprehensive season also includes; Partner (1968), Bertolucci's New Wave-inspired take on Dostoevsky's novel The Double; The Conformist (Il conformist, 1970), a stunning masterpiece of '70s cinema, based on the acclaimed novel by Alberto Moravia; The Spider's Stratagem (Strategia del ragno, 1970), for which Bertolucci drew inspiration from a Jorge Luis Borges' short story, The Theme of the Traitor and the Hero, as well as his own deepening interest in Freudian psychoanalysis; Tragedy of a Ridiculous Man (La tragedia di un uomo ridicolo, 1981), an intriguing family drama set against a backdrop of Italian domestic terrorism; and Besieged (1998), an intimate mood piece, suffused with sensuality and the dreamily fluid rhythms that are Bertolucci's signature.

Screening alongside Bertolucci's films are three documentaries on the director. 

Once Upon a Time.Last Tango in Paris (Il etait une fois.le dernier tango a Paris, 2004) provides a socio-political and historical context for Bertolucci's landmark erotic drama from 1972.  Revealing interviews with the likes of Bertolucci, lead actress Schneider, cinematographer Storaro and feminist author Germaine Greer among others, trace the film's development from the critical process of casting Brando and Schneider, through to the film's premiere and its wider popular and critical reception.

The Cinema According to Bertolucci (Bertolucci secondo il cinema, 1976) is a fascinating on-set film by Gianni Amelio (The Stolen Children, 1992), imaginatively exploring the making of Bertolucci's political epic, 1900. Amelio interviews Bertolucci between takes from key scenes featuring Robert De Niro, Gerard Depardieu, Dominique Sanda and Donald Sutherland, as the director explains his desire to "speak of the land where [he] was born and the most formative time of [his] life".

The Italian Traveller: Bernardo Bertolucci (Le Voyageur Italien, 1982) is a whimsical documentary journey with Bertolucci, made by a long-term assistant to the director Fernand Moszkowicz. Bertolucci retraces his steps from the Po Valley countryside where he was raised to the apartment on Rue Jules Verne used in Last Tango in Paris. The director encounters familiar actors along the way - among them, Jean-Pierre Léaud and Gérard Depardieu - before embarking on travels to China in the early pre-production phase for The Last Emperor in China.  

Three short films from Bertolucci's oeuvre will screen to accompany sessions across the season; Canal (Il Canale, 1967); Postcard from China (Cartolina dalla Cina, 1975), and Agony (Agonia, 1969) from the omnibus film, Amore e rabbia (Love and Anger).

Focus on Bertolucci screens exclusively at ACMI from 20 October to 8 November, 2011. For more information, visit

Co-presented by ACMI Film Programs and Cinecitta' Luce, Rome, with special thanks to the Italian Institute of Culture, Melbourne. Organised by Paola Ruggiero and Rosaria Folcarelli, Cinecitta' Luce; Roberta Ciabarra, Co-ordinating Curator, ACMI.


Further information

Claire Butler
Communications Coordinator
[direct phone] 61 3 8663 2415 [fax] 61 3 8663 2498 [mobile] 0434 603 654
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