The Italian director, who died on November 26 at the age of 77, had staged numerous films that examined the social and political struggles of his time, but always with an aesthetic approach. Remains the polemics around the “Last Tango in Paris”, his most famous film, which pursued him until the end of his life.
Bernardo Bertolucci lived between two fascisms, between their darkness. Born in 1941 in Parma, in the Italy of Mussolini, he died at the age of 77 in Rome, in the League of North and Matteo Salvini. Return of a black plague to which he once devoted burning works: the filmmaker has examined as a person the morbid flesh of fascism, his intimate convulsions as much as his external ravages.
In 1970, in The Conformist , one of his greatest films, he observed the contagion in the psyche of a bourgeois of the 1930s – impressive Jean-Louis Trintignant – gangrené of hatred and guilt, sick of the desire of to be in the rank, to repress all singularity. This almost organic psychoanalytical approach also irrigated 1900 , his great fresco, shot in 1976, devoted to the history of Italy, from the early twentieth century to the end of the Second World War. In this monument of cinema, a journey of two friends of childhood (Robert De Niro and Gerard Depardieu) that opposes everything, social origins, ideologies and personal destinies, Bernardo Bertolucci also observes the other side of the history of his country: that social struggles, working-class conditions, revolts and revolutions, for which he was the spokesperson and companion for a good part of his career, until the end of the 1970s. From Prima della rivoluzione , in 1964 In The Spider’s Strategy , in 1970, he questions his own commitment to the Communist Party, between fascination and disenchantment.
From this very political period, Bernardo Bertolucci never drew any film-file at the Costa-Gavras, always preferring aesthetics to speeches, confiding to a pictorial beauty, sensual and sophisticated – even if it were funereal – a substantial part of the demonstration. A way to privilege the mystery in each setting, each character, to favor the questions rather than the answers. This poet’s son, himself a writer and a great admirer of Federico Fellini, liked to repeat it: “Every film I shoot is for me a return to poetry. “
Gradually, from the 1980s, this fascination with form has however sometimes devoured the substance: we keep a more mixed memory of great decorative and exotic shows such as The Last Emperor (1987) or Little Buddha (1993). Costly and lustrous re-enactments, which appear as pale in comparison with his previous historical works, as Stolen Beauty , vaguely sulphurous in a Tuscan villa, seem fade compared to the transgressions of the Last Tango in Paris .
It’s the filmmaker’s big film, his most famous work, his 1972 sexual tragedy, which bore a dark testimony to another revolution of the time, that of manners. The black legend of this story of desire and destruction does not stop perpetuating itself. A convulsive, distraught and nihilistic closed session, between two lovers of chance, Marlon Brando and Maria Schneider, who devoured the young actress at the beginning of her career, as much as her character.