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Italy, 1964 (MIFF 1966, Programme H)

Director: Bernardo Bertolucci

Before the Revolution is both personal and autobiographical. Its title comes from Talleyrand's famous remark: "Only those who lived before the Revolution knew how sweet life could be." The Talleyrand of the film is an 18-year-old scion of the upper middle class of Parma, Fabrizio, for whom the Revolution never comes. Fabrizio thinks of himself as an outsider, a rebel; he dallies with Communism and even has an affair with his beautiful neurotic young aunt, Gina. But he is not the stuff revolutionaries are made, and is as incapable of handling his relationship with her as he is of any political action. Finally he capitulates entirely; he decides to marry the nice young girl he was always destined to marry and his sentimental education is over.

Before the Revolution is technically dazzling and beautifully acted. The interest is pulled this way and that, and the first half of the film is difficult to follow until the various themes begin to mesh. But its rewards are commensurate with its demands and its grip becomes vice-like. Superimposed are quotations from Marienbad; allusions to La Dolce Vita. Critics heralded Bernardo Bertolucci as the revelation of the year.

Young Critic's Prize, Cannes Festival.

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