The Venice International Film Festival‘s announced today that Bernardo Bertolucci will preside over the International Jury for the Competition of its 70th edition, running from August 28 through September 7. It won’t be a first for Bertolucci. He was jury president for the 40th edition in 1983, when Jean-Luc Godard won the Golden Lion for Prénom Carmen. In 2003, he presented his own film, The Dreamers, and in 2007, he was award a lifetime achievement Golden Lion.
Last month, Bertolucci’s latest film, Io e te (Me and You), which screened Out of Competition at Cannes last year and has just seen its US premiere at the San Francisco International Film Festival, was awarded the Nastri d’Argento (Silver Ribbon). Presented by the Sindacato Nazionale dei Giornalisti Cinematografici Italiani (Italian National Syndicate of Film Journalists), the Nastro d’Argento was first presented in 1946, making it the oldest film award in Europe and the second oldest in the world (only the Academy Awards are older). And, as Eric J. Lyman notes in the Hollywood Reporter, when Bertolucci receives the award in Rome on May 30, it’ll be his “third—he won as Best Director for both Last Tango in Paris and The Last Emperor—to go along with four other Nastri d’Argento nominations.” A new 4K restoration of The Last Emperor, converted to 3D, will premiere in this year’s Cannes Classics program.
Back for a moment to Me and You. “Directing from his wheelchair, you might think [Bertolucci, now 73, would] be tempted to muscle in on Amour territory and make a movie about the human body shutting down, but quite the reverse is true,” wrote the Telegraph‘s Tim Robey last month. “His main character is an awkward 14-year-old called Lorenzo, with terrible acne and an unruly shock of dark curls—a striking debut from Jacopo Olmo Antinori. Claiming to be off on a class skiing trip, Lorenzo hides out in his mother’s basement for a week instead, doing next to nothing, until his half-sister (Tea Falco), a recovering junkie, discovers him there. Like the underrated Besieged (1998), the film takes place in a tempting sanctuary from the responsibilities of adulthood.”
The Guardian‘s Peter Bradshaw: “Me and You was based on a young-adult novel by Niccolò Ammaniti, published in 2010, but it could have been made at any time in the last 40 years, especially when Lorenzo and Olivia start singing along to David Bowie’s rewritten Italian version of ‘Space Oddity.’ Something in its slightly earnest imagining of abuse, drugs and young people marks this out as an old man’s film. For all that, it has warmth and a kind of neo-New-Wave jauntiness—Bertolucci even fires off a visual allusion to Truffaut in the final moments—and it’s similar in many ways to his earlier films The Dreamers and Last Tango in Paris, but less highly charged, and with less at stake. A minor, but valuable Bertolucci film.”
“The film is oddball and sad,” finds Antonia Quirke in the Financial Times, “with occasional touches of that characteristic Bertolucci forlorn dignity. You know it’s a goodbye.” Not quite yet! More from Philip French (Observer), Ryan Gilbey (New Statesman), David Jenkins (Little White Lies), Philip Kemp (Sight & Sound), Anthony Quinn (Independent, 3/5), and Jonathan Romney (Independent, 3/5).
“Bertolucci grew up in what he describes as ‘a universe of poetry,'” notes John Preston in a profile for the Telegraph. “His father was a poet, art historian and film critic…. Having published a slim volume of verse in his teens, Bertolucci was thinking that he too might devote his life to poetry when one day the doorbell rang at their family home near Parma. ‘A very sinister looking man was standing there in a black hat. He asked for Professor Bertolucci. I went and woke up my father who was having a nap and told him there was a man outside who looked like a thief.’ The man, it turned out, was the film director Pier Paolo Pasolini. Bertolucci ended up dropping out of university and going to work for him.”
Kaleem Aftab in the Independent: “He made his international breakthrough in 1964 with Before the Revolution, in which the Communist hero, battling against materialism and the death of his best friend, embarks on an affair with an elder aunt. Communism and the battle against fascism is the theme of several of his works, most notably the five-hour epic 1900.” Or perhaps even more notably, The Conformist. At any rate: “Partner, a 1968 outing inspired by the French New Wave, was a manifesto of his own beliefs that included an attack on brands and marketing with a pastiche of domestic appliance commercials in which a couple make love in front of a lathering washing machine.”
And in his interview for Little White Lies, David Jenkins asks, “With something like Last Tango in Paris, could you have made that film today?”