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Italy, 1979 (MIFF 1980, Programme 7)

Director: Bernardo Bertolucci

Bernardo Bertolucci's new films always come as shocks More than most film-makers, each new film is a reaction against his previous work. Since he got into his international stride with The Conformist and had budgets to match his tracking-shot visions, each successive Bertolucci movie has refused to stand up and do what both his admirers and detractors wished of him. He has obstinately produced major and unexpected work that causes controversy over its value and wins him new acclaim and abuse. Bertolucci has been nothing if not controversial as he slipped from the calculated grace of The Conformist, to the blatant erotic charges of Last Tango in Paris, to an individualistic rewrite of Italian history in Novecento La Luna, his latest piece of spellbinding film-making, will be no exception.

Bertolucci has explained the genesis of his new film as follows:

"The idea of La Luna came two years ago during a session with my psychoanalyst. I suddenly realised tha I had been talking about my father for seven or eight years - and now I wanted to talk about my mother. And my first memory of her - I was maybe two - was of me sitting in a little basket on her bicycle facing her. We were in the country near Parma, and suddenly I saw the moon in the evening sky. And there was a confusion in my mind between the image of the moon and that of my mother's face. This image stopped me dead in my tracks. I couldn't get behind it and I couldn't let it go. So I thought that it was a point of departure for a film. And the film began from that image."

From this beginning emerged a stop of an American opera singer (Jill Clayburgh) with a troubled fifteen-year-old son (Matthew Barry) and the incestuous relationship they enter into when she discovers that he has become a heroin addict. Its dramatic structure is built around the secrets the characters keep from one another. As with all Bertolucci's films, it is an intense, intriguing and totally absorbing work of art from one of the cinema's most exciting talents.

Bernardo Bertolucci — Born 1941

Feature films as director — The Grim Reaper (1962), Before the Revolution (1964), Partner (1968), The Spiders Strategy (1969), The Conformist (1970), Last Tango in Pans (1972), 7900(1976), La Luna (1979)

See also...


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BertoIucci's first film (1962) starts like a thriller: The body of a woman is found on a river bank near a suburban park in Rome, and the police interrogate a number of people who were seen in the ... More »


As in his 1971 Festival film, The Conformist, in The Spider's Strategy, Bertolucci again tackles a political subject, this time about the unravelling of the mystery of a political assassination. ... More »


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 ... More »


Bertolucci's latest film is designed with the pure geome­try of music in mind. In Kenya. Shadurai's (Thandie Newton) husband is arrested for opposing the military government. She moves to Rome ... More »


Self-preservation in the face of, and conformity to the dictates and ideologies of political power have made cowards of countless numbers of solid citizens. ... Just such a coward is Marcello who has ... More »

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