Two disparate worlds come together in thoroughly unexpected ways in this intriguing film directed by Academy Award winner Bernardo Bertolucci. The opening sequence, in an impoverished, unnamed African dictatorship, is painfully intense: we watch in horror as the movie’s heroine, Shandurai (serenely beautiful Thandie Newton), witnesses the brutal arrest of her husband, a rebellious reformer. Then suddenly we are transported to Rome, where Shandurai is studying medicine and cleaning house for a reclusive, wealthy pianist, Mr. Kinsky (David Thewlis). Knowing nothing of her past, Kinsky falls hopelessly in love with Shandurai. She finds his clumsy courtship insulting, especially in contrast to the heavy load she’s borne in her life. But it gradually becomes clear Shandurai has sorely underestimated Mr. Kinsky. –New Line Cinema
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
Two worlds collide, an enduring motif of Bertolucci’s (his former fascist obsessions transposing briefly here also). In Besieged, Thewlis and Newton become the displaced souls to succeed Brando and Schneider, and whose disparate paths translate into such a lush marriage of worldly textures - framed with such movement and being - as to make one realise the guy’s rarely skipped a beat since his Last Tango. Seamless, no - piercing, rather - yet in so doing, exhibiting such raw musicality and lucid rhythm as to befit an auteur’s unbridled maturity.
love or loyalty? what a dilemma. that split-second decision was a surprise. i'd probably run away if i were her. the film might be incomparable to the majestic productions of the Last Emperor or the Little Buddha, but like always, bertolocci doesn't spoonfeed his audience, he wants us to have our own decision, envision our own final scenes. and most of all, his films are delightful to the eyes.