The study of a youth on the edge of adulthood and his aunt, ten years older. Fabrizio is passionate, idealistic, influenced by Cesare, a teacher and Marxist, engaged to the lovely but bourgeois Clelia, and stung by the drowning of his mercurial friend Agostino, a possible suicide. Gina is herself a bundle of nervous energy, alternately sweet, seductive, poetic, distracted, and unhinged. They begin a love affair after Agostino’s funeral, then Gina confuses Fabrizio by sleeping with a stranger. Their visits to Cesare and then to Puck, one of Gina’s older friends, a landowner losing his land, dramatize contrasting images of Italy’s future. Their own futures are bleak. —IMDb
Bernardo Bertolucci proved to be Italian cinema’s great prodigy, making his debut The Grim Reaper at the age of 22, and Before the Revolution at the age of 24; achievements comparable to Orson Welles directing Citizen Kane at the age of 25. He was born in Parma in 1940. He initially followed the footsteps of his father Attilio, a noted poet and critic. His poetry received prizes at competitions and a collection of his work was published while he was still a teenager. But his attention was already diverted to the cinema, especially after viewing Godard’s Breathless. His planned transition from poetry to cinema found an accomplice in fellow poet Pier Paolo Pasolini. A family friend, he regarded Bertolucci as a kindred spirit and tasked him as his assistant on his landmark debut, Accattone. The experience, described by Bertolucci as witnessing “the invention of the cinema” further ignited his own ambitions.
The Grim Reaper was based on a story by Pasolini but the resulting film displayed… read more
Like Malle’s breakout in Elevator to the Gallows, Bertolucci’s Prima della rivoluzione showcases a poetic, unabrasive visual style, one infused with startling innocence and desire - this time with the existential dialogues of Rohmer’s Ma nuit chez Maud’s, in its own dichotomy of bourgeois passivity against the call to revolution. Though Bertolucci’s styling proves more cogent than his writing - still caught up in youthful folly and angst - his beautiful cinematic language proves enough to form a unique corollary to the seminal neorealist coming-of-age.
Apprenticeship with the wrong master: affectations of New Wave in the French mode divert the potential greatness of this film into an offhand cinematic paraphrase of Godard at his most glib, which is a shame, since Bertolucci's expressive dramaturgy could have easily translated and transcended the blackness of the narrative, humanity: politics are an emotion of restlessness.
BFI Southbank's Bernardo Bertolucci season opens this evening with Before the Revolution (1964), features an onstage conversation with the