Directed by Bernardo Bertolucci. Written by Franco Arcalli, Giuseppe Bertolucci, Bernardo Bertolucci. Cast: Robert De Niro, Gerard Depardieu, Dominique Sanda, Burt Lancaster, Donald Sutherland, Stefania Sandrelli, Francesca Bertini, Laura Betti, Werner Bruhns, Stefania Casini, Sterling Hayden, Anna Henkel, Ellen Schwiers, Alida Valli, Romolo Valli, Giacomo Rizzo, Paolo Pavesi, Roberto Maccanti, Maria Monti, Jose Quaglio, Pietro Longari Ponzoni, Piero Vida. (Unrated, 315 mins)
In recent years, Paramount hasn't been known for showing an interest in making its back catalog available, so they've been licensing titles out to the upstart Olive Films label (recent releases include a batch of Jerry Lewis comedies and the '70s cop thrillers HIT! and BADGE 373). Back in 2006, Paramount listened to fan requests and made the surprise decision to release the uncut version of Bernardo Bertolucci's European political epic 1900 on DVD. It wasn't in print very long and now they've farmed it out to Olive Films for a DVD re-release (minus the bonus features on the 2006 DVD but with a 2002 documentary on Bertolucci that wasn't on the previous release) and a debut on Blu-ray. It looks mostly good on Blu-ray, framed at 1.78:1, a change from the DVD's 1.85:1 (IMDb claims the original aspect ratio is 1.66:1, so who knows?). The difference is pretty minor, and I only noticed one shot where the change made a difference and something seemed oddly-framed (we should just be thankful that cinematographer Vittorio "2.00:1" Storaro wasn't put in charge of the Blu-ray transfer) There's some scenes where there's a bit too much saturation and the caked makeup and wig-cap glue lines on the actors' heads are plainly obvious, but overall, the colors are bolder and the textures better-defined than the occasionally washed-out DVD. Probably worth the upgrade for fans of this long-neglected masterpiece, but the transfer is not perfect. If ever a film deserved to be rescued by a Criterion restoration, it's this one, but the Blu-ray's visual inconsistencies may be inherent in the film itself. You know how sometimes the higher-resolution of Blu-ray doesn't help? This might be the case here, depending on one's tolerance for grain. Still, this Blu-ray is probably as good as it'll ever get for a film that may come to be regarded as either Bertolucci's finest work or his ultimate act of madness.
|De Niro and Depardieu as best friends torn|
apart by political upheaval in 1900
|Burt Lancaster as the padrone|
|Donald Sutherland as the sadistic Attila|
Many characters weave in and out of the story, which unfolds and progresses like a great novel. With Storaro's stunning cinematography and a majestic score by Ennio Morricone, 1900 looks and sounds incredible. And rarely has a film this long been so consistently engrossing. It's truly a film like no other. It's remarkably ambitious, grandiose, operatic, overwrought, and profoundly moving in equal measures. Every few minutes, there's some beautifully-staged sequence or some inspired bit of crazed acting or some unexpected transgression happening. The sexual content is surprising at times: young Alfredo and Olmo compare erections in a controversial scene; as young adults, they visit a prostitute (Stefania Casini) who gives them simultaneous handjobs and there's no effects or camera trickery...she's really stroking both De Niro and Depardieu; there's a weird scene where De Niro's Alfredo uses the butt of a shotgun to masturbate his horny cousin Regina (Laura Betti), who's also seen going down on Sutherland while he rants about Fascist ideals. There's also some almost-Pasolini levels of scatology: Lancaster buries his feet in cow shit before asking a peasant girl to feel his impotent penis; Bertolucci gives us a close-up of a horse taking a steaming dump and the piles of manure get thrown at Sutherland. The violence is also very disturbing at times, especially the fate of a little boy raped and killed by Attila and Regina, and a rough, non-faked scene where Depardieu kills and guts a large pig.
|Sterling Hayden as peasant leader Leo Dalco|
|De Niro's Alfredo, the landowner put|
on trial by his field workers