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Bernardo Bertolucci: In Search of Mystery

July 8, 2011 – August 18, 2011
Pacific Film Archive Theater, UC Berkeley


The search for mystery can be all consuming. Not the mystery of genre, but of human nature, of the culture enveloping it, of reality itself. Throughout his fifty-year career, it is this search that has engulfed the imagination of Bernardo Bertolucci. Trained first as a poet, this great Italian film director has issued a body of expansive works, lyrical in their form, rigorous in their reception, profound in their intent—The Grim Reaper, The Spider’s Stratagem, The Sheltering Sky. “I am looking for a spectator,” he said, “capable of abandoning himself to the unconscious work developed by the film and who is able to participate in it.” Participation is key: Bertolucci’s films are never bluntly dogmatic, nor overly tangible. To enter them is to enter a world of poetic meandering, referential gestures, and sensual longing—Partner, Besieged, The Dreamers. His films are often amorous and some, like Last Tango in Paris, test the bounds of acceptability. Bertolucci has remarked that in Italian “camera” means bedroom, so his visual curiosity tends toward the robust, fleshy image, often heightened through the lens of master cinematographer Vittorio Storaro. But the body does give way to the body politic in films that actively engage with questions of cultural transformation—Before the Revolution, The Conformist, Tragedy of a Ridiculous Man. Most notorious is Bertolucci’s epic 1900, touted as the largest anti-capitalist philippic ever financed by a studio. We are proud to unfurl the mystery that is Bernardo Bertolucci—thirteen films with thirteen new prints.

Steve Seid
Video Curator

Friday, July 8, 2011
7:00 p.m. Before the Revolution
Bernardo Bertolucci (Italy, 1964). Bertolucci’s paean to unhinged passion references Stendhal, Godard, Rossellini, Chekhov, and others, as it follows a young bourgeois reinventing himself as a progressive Marxist—and embarking on an affair with his aunt. “A richly romantic work” (Pauline Kael). (112 mins)

Friday, July 8, 2011
9:10 p.m. The Grim Reaper
Bernardo Bertolucci (Italy, 1962). Pier Paolo Pasolini wrote the script for Bertolucci’s gritty debut film, a Rashomon-like thriller about a prostitute’s murder in the hills of Rome. “Works on every level—melodrama, spectacle, reportage” (Andrew Sarris). (92 mins)

Sunday, July 10, 2011
7:45 p.m. The Spider’s Stratagem
Bernardo Bertolucci (Italy, 1970). A story by Jorge Luis Borges inspired this atmospheric political thriller involving a young man who returns to the small village where his activist father was murdered. Year later, some wish the past be undisturbed—or repeated. “Possibly Bertolucci’s simplest and most glowing work” (Judith Crist). (97 mins)

Thursday, July 14, 2011
7:00 p.m. The Conformist
Bernardo Bertolucci (Italy, 1970). Jean-Louis Trintignant is a suave intellectual who has risen through the ranks of Mussolini’s fascist government, a conformist who now faces his ultimate orders: to assassinate his former mentor, an antifascist professor. “A great film, drunkenly beautiful and deeply disturbing” (David Thomson). (116 mins)

Saturday, July 16, 2011
6:00 p.m. 1900
Bernardo Bertolucci (Italy/France/West Germany, 1976). Robert De Niro, Gérard Depardieu, and Burt Lancaster lead an international cast in Bertolucci’s sweeping epic about two young friends—a peasant and a landowner—as they live through world wars, labor revolts, and the rise and fall of fascism. “The biggest manifesto against capital ever paid for with American studio money” (Village Voice). (311 mins)

Wednesday, July 20, 2011
7:00 p.m. Partner
Bernardo Bertolucci (Italy, 1968). Bertolucci updates Dostoevsky’s classic tale of paranoia to a modern-day Italy. A timid drama teacher dreams of revolution—until his doppelganger appears, and begins to realize all his hopes. “Exuberant movie-making by a young director who talks like an intellectual but makes movies like a poet” (Vincent Canby). (107 mins)

Saturday, July 23, 2011
8:10 p.m. Last Tango in Paris
Bernardo Bertolucci (France/Italy, 1972). Marlon Brando, Maria Schneider, and Jean-Pierre Léaud star in Bertolucci’s notoriously steamy film about an amour fou between an older man and a younger woman, banned in Italy upon its debut. “The movie breakthrough has finally come; Bertolucci and Brando have altered the face of an art form” (Pauline Kael). (136 mins)

Wednesday, July 27, 2011
7:00 p.m. The Path of Oil
Bernardo Bertolucci (Italy, 1967). Bertolucci’s formidable documentary explores the path of oil from extraction to dispersal, and uncovers the complex colonial enterprise behind it. (135 mins)

Friday, July 29, 2011
7:00 p.m. Tragedy of a Ridiculous Man
Bernardo Bertolucci (Italy, 1981). A cheese tycoon discovers that his son has been abducted by radicals, and must decide between his life or that of his company, in Bertolucci’s sly, questioning portrait of terrorism, economics, and the divide between generations. An engrossing time capsule of Italy during the Red Brigade era. (118 mins)

Sunday, July 31, 2011
7:00 p.m. The Last Emperor
Bernardo Bertolucci (Italy/China, 1987). Winner of nine Oscars, Bertolucci’s cast-of-thousands epic follows the life of China’s last Emperor, Pu Yi (John Lone), from coddled child to leader to—post-Cultural Revolution—gardener. Costarring Joan Chen, Peter O’Toole, and Ryuichi Sakamoto. (163 mins)

Saturday, August 6, 2011
8:55 p.m. Besieged
Bernardo Bertolucci (Italy, 1998). An English composer (David Thewlis) embarks on an affair with a beautiful African student/maid (Thandie Newton) in Bertolucci’s understated romance. “A film about the limits of art, about civilization at this moment of flux, and about a gentle connection between a man and a woman” (Time Out). (90 mins)

Wednesday, August 10, 2011
7:00 p.m. The Sheltering Sky
Bernardo Bertolucci (Italy/U.K., 1990). John Malkovich and Debra Winger star as a couple on the verge of disintegration during a trek through the vast Sahara. Adapted from the acclaimed Paul Bowles novel. “A long, beautifully modulated cry of despair” (Vincent Canby). (137 mins)

Thursday, August 18, 2011
7:00 p.m. The Dreamers
Bernardo Bertolucci (France/Italy/U.K., 2003). Bertolucci’s paean to late-sixties youth culture—and the cinephilia, politics, and sex that were so intertwined with it—follows the sexual and political awakening of a young American student (Michael Pitt) in riot-torn 1968 Paris. “Both a love song to escapism and a warm embrace of the real world” (Washington Post). (116 mins)

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