- Language: English, French
- Subtitles: French, English, German
- Number of discs: 2
- Average Customer Review: 23 customer reviews
- ASIN: B000BGPH9M
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 81,102 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)
1900 / Novecento  [DVD]
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''This is a handsome film with fierce and heartfelt ambition'' --Film 4
''absolutely essential viewing'' --Mike Sutton, The Digital Fix
''Stunning... Operatically staged'' --Radio Times --This text refers to an alternate DVD edition.
Top customer reviews
Not for children.... Strictly for thoughtful adults.
This restoration is gorgeous!
Chief debit is Burt Lancaster's senile padrone, hanging himself because he can't even get the erection he needs to rape the child of one of his employees: no gattapardo he. Donald Sutherland's socially mobile foreman-turned-fascist thug veers between plus and minus - it's a broad performance, as you'd expect from a character whose idea of political debate is to head butt a kitten to death (it's an extremely tough film on animals: the kitten's death may be faked but none of the other animal killings are), although there are moments that ring true in the latter section.
It's an interesting experiment to try to gauge the actors original intent by flitting between the various soundtracks on the extras-free but uncut European DVD - the preferred English soundtrack gives you De Niro, Sutherland, Lancaster, Stirling Hayden and Dominique Sanda talking for themselves, the French offers Depardieu's voice while the Italian gives you more natural vocalisation for the majority of the smaller parts, as does the German.
Ultimately it doesn't amount to much - the basic thesis can be reduced to "Fascism, socialism - huh. Both as bad as each other," with paradise postponed once again at the very moment of liberation and the status quo more or less restored for the rest of the century. But there's a side of me that can't help thinking that for the most part it's a movie about peasants' rights made by a group of people who are now multi-millionaires who'll make almost anything if you write them a big enough cheque...
two viewings of this somewhat bloated 5 hour plus film left me feeling
the same way; The film is over-simplistic in its characters and
politics, badly dubbed (with actors from all over speaking their own
language, so whatever soundtrack you pick there are important
characters who sound like something out of 'What's Up Tiger Lily'), and
even the English spoken by DeNiro seems post- recorded, making for an
oddly stiff sounding performance.
Yet for all these complaints it is somehow a near-great film. There are
so many moments; images, incidents that are indelible, and in the end
there's such a real emotional punch to this overview of the history of
Italy from 1900 to 1945 as seem through the lives of a few people in a
small town that it overcomes many of the flaws.
I couldn't defend the film from anyone who wanted to tear it down -
e.g. the simple-minded jingoistic endless competition between fascism
and communism as if those were the only two options in the world, with
both sides reduced to cartoon like figures of evil and good.
But it's strengths are strong enough that I'd urge people to judge for
themselves. You may find, like me, that all the flaws don't matter to
you when a film has so many unforgettable moments.
The story isn't quite as confusing as it sounds, with the director anchoring the story throughout to the characters of Olmo and Alfredo. In the early scenes, we see the two boys living an idyllic "Huckleberry Finn" style existence, catching frogs, play-fighting, testing each other's bravery with a series of dares... whilst, all the while, succumbing to the lifestyle of their respective families. This will eventually, to some extent, tear the two friends apart, as the hard working Olmo sides with the communists whilst Alfredo, torn by loyalty and greed, allows the fascists to operate on his land. As you would expect from an epic, the film introduced lots of background characters, with the film taking in three generations of Italian history over the course of its vast, five-hour running time. Some of the history of the film is glossed over... with Bertolucci falling into an uneasy habit of switching between oblique, allegorical metaphors (the use of different animals to act as a symbol for each type of character, for example; the socialists as cats, head butted to death by the fascists who are portrayed as pigs, bloated, self-righteous beasts there to be gutted by the labourers) and almost bludgeoning political ideologies (the penultimate speech from Olmo is delivered literally to camera). Also, we're never really sure of whom we're supposed to be rooting for; clearly, Bertolucci wants us to side with the socialists, but they come across as spineless cowards who can only afflict revenge on the fascists and the landowners once they have been stripped of all their power. For the most part, the socialists wander around singing songs to each other, never once trying to convince us of their suffering, whilst Bertolucci seemingly thinks that if he makes them dirty enough, or ugly enough, we'll feel sympathy for them regardless. It doesn't quite work.
However, despite these flaws, the film is still (as many other critics have also noted) a monumental achievement. This is an epic in the classic sense, recalling films like The Godfather and Visconti's The Leopard (Burt Lancaster plays a role here that is very similar to the role of Don Fabrizio Salina, which he played in that particular film). It's also very similar to that other flawed Italian filmmaker's epic, Once Upon A Time in America, with both films employing the use of a flash-back/framing devise, as well as a thematic scope that covers a similar period in history (albeit, this is about Italy rather than America). Like Leone's film, 1900 is vast and sprawling, though anchored to two characters (who are best friends since childhood) and their personal relationships (...whilst, superficially, they both feature Robert DeNiro). Like Once Upon A Time... 1900 is a very brutal and confrontational film, with many violent sequences and scenes of outrageous sexuality. The version that I have (the one shown on Film Four) is as close to uncut as can be shown in this county (only one shot, the one in which the young Alfredo plays with himself in order to achieve an erection, was digitally darkened around the genital areas so that nothing could be seen); with Bertolucci taking almost every scene and characterisation completely over the top. This method is most apparent with the character of Attila, the lead-fascist in the film, who, in one of his earliest appearances, ties a kitten to the wall and then head buts it. This prefigures a later scene, in which Bertolucci implies that Attila has raped a small boy, only for Attila to then pick the child up by the ankles and swing him around the room until his skull shatters against a post.
Some of the performances in the film are very strong, particularly DeNiro as Alfredo, Gérard Depardieu as Olmo, Dominique Sanda as Ada, Sterling Hayden as Olmo's grandpa Leo, Burt Lancaster as the patriarch Berlinghieri and Donald Sutherland as the snarling "villain" Attila, whilst that gorgeous cinematography from Vittorio Storaro is just exquisite (...the camera always moving, blocking, tracking, revealing, swooping around the characters with the most gorgeous colours imaginable). It's easily one of the most beautiful films ever made, adding to the epic nature of the story and the feelings evoked through Ennio Morricone's great score. 1900 might not be the greatest film ever made, but I feel that it is an important film, both in terms of style and ambition. It's a definite flawed masterpiece, with a great cast and a talented director at the height of their creative prowess. As both an outrageous, overblown melodrama and as a political allegory/treatise on loyalty and friendship, it's worth looking out for and is an interesting relic to one of the most-important eras of cinema history.
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