Director: Bernardo Bertolucci
Cast: Robert De Niro, Gérard Depardieu, Dominique Sanda, Francesca Bertini, Laura Betti, Werner Bruhns, Stefania Casini, Sterling Hayden, Anna Henkel
I've been working on this epic, historical political drama for a few nights now. Viewed in its original cut at a whopping run-time of 5.25 hours (with poorly dubbed-in voices instead of subtitles mind you), the film required more than the standard dosage of patience.
So what defines "epic" in this case? Masterful... or simply really, really long? Honestly, it's hard to say. Even the director himself seems not to know, as the film exists in many versions-- some even cut down by 90 minutes. Supposedly, Bertolucci says in these cases, 'Nothing important was cut.'
Well, that really summarizes my feelings about this film, and it's not stemming from a shallow place. In fact, my favorite film of all time (Gone With the Wind) is a long one too-- I have no time limit for films! But 1900 truly lacked relationship, momentum, and defining moments. The importance of this film is in the passage of time–politically and in the specific relationship of the two star-crossed friends: the landowner and the worker during fascist Italy. Over the course of five hours, the director is OF COURSE enabled to show the gradual and radical changes. He is presented with a unique opportunity to pace in what can feel almost like real time... (Isn't that incredible by the way? Films allow us to believe in years passing in hours. We are truly transported!) And while I understand that this film was never, on any level intended to be any shape or form of entertaining, but rather, was intended to live amongst the great political dramas, I stand my ground in saying that this film lacks Glue. It lacks cohesive qualities that make it feel seamless with direction.
Instead, we are jolted uncomfortably along with characters we don't quite understand. We watch history unfold (and without a good understanding of Italian history.. GOOD LUCK!) without any vehicle for emotion.
This films packs a lot of events into 5 hours, but it doesn't pack much heat. The fire and emotional impact only arise when there is extreme violence or sexual crudeness on screen. Moments. Never by plot or character.
For me, although it is always a great experience to invest yourself more deeply in stories (ie. I always prefer long, epic novels to short books), in this case, I could've done without 3 hours of this film.
And on a completely separate note, I also could've done without seeing young Robert De Niro's full frontal.