on November 2, 2006
This is, in fact, Bertolucci's original cut of 315 (!) minutes. Having seen both the 255 minute version and the director's cut, one may actually say what kind of difference can there possibly be between these 2 versions? One is 4 1/4 hours, the other is 5 1/4 hours. They are both incredibly long versions, so what's the point? The point is that there is a huge difference. As incredible as it may sound, the shorter version seems longer, as it doesn't have the same narrative flow as the longer version does. There are subtle differences between the versions that make certain scenes different. For example, there is a scene where the leaders of the town go duck hunting (warning! Bertolucci shows the actual killing of ducks here, along with animals being slaughtered for food). They then go into a church to discuss bringing a new fascist order to the town. In the short version, the church scene only consists of the men talking. In the longer version, Bertolucci intercuts the dead ducks with the men talking, giving the scene a graver effect. The sex scenes are longer and more explicit in the longer version as well. I saw this long version at a Bertolucci retrospective, and there were college kids in the audience who were laughing at the sex scenes! The sex scenes, like in all of Bertolucci's work, are meant to be serious and natural, which they are. I suppose the young people of America have a difficult time taking sex seriously after a decade or so of lowbrow, childish, teenage "comedies". Some of the magnificent camera work got lost in the shorter version, because Bertolucci cut some of the beginnings and ends of scenes, where they would be a wonderful camera move opening or closing the scene. As for the film itself, it is incredibly ambitious and amazing to behold. Bertolucci just came off the amazingly successful Last Tango in Paris, and did something grandly ambitious. He should be commended for that. Many current day filmmakers would probably do a sequel to their already successful film to fill their pockets, and not give a hoot about anything else. Bertolucci originally wanted to release it in 2 parts, but the producer Alberto Grimaldi, who was reeling from the financial failure of Fellini's Cassanova (a film he produced), wanted no part of a 2 part film. So Bertolucci compromised. He only cut one entire scene. He made cuts within scenes (a technique that Terry Gilliam used on his film Brazil, when he had to trim his film from 142 minutes to 131). While this film is magnificent, it took a ton out of Bertolucci. He never worked with Grimaldi again (Grimaldi had produced Last Tango in addition to this film), and he didn't really recover his reputation as a great filmmaker until 10 years later with another epic, The Last Emperor. Since then, he's been erratic, but he can still make great cinema (watch The Dreamers, one of Bertolucci's best films). Since this is in fact the director's cut, by all means see it, rent it, buy it.
This is arguably one of the finest, most ambitious, and unique epic films ever made. When it was made in 1977, it was met with derision, confusement, and indifference. Many people are now able to view this film, and appreciate it for the masterpiece that it is.
on October 6, 2003
Let me clarify the question of the different versions of this masterpiece.
The first cut (never released) was 6:15. The European released version was 5:25. In the meanwhile, Alberto Grimaldi (the film's producer) was negociating with Paramount a 3:15 version, betraying Bertolucci, who didn't know a word about.
After the European succes, Fox offered Bertolucci to work on a 4:15 version for the U.S. market. He accepted, and made a second 4:40 version. But Grimaldi's opposition take the case to a court. A judge viewed all three 5:25, 4:40 and 3:15 versions. He concluded that Grimaldi's short version was detrimental and incoherent. So he invited Bertolucci to work in a 4:15 version.
Bernardo did a third cut to 4:10, that had its premiere in the New York Film Festival. There, critics were very negative, since they already knew the european 5:25 version, and compared so. But Bertolucci once declared that this was simply another film; no a single sequence was missing, it just had another pace. For a given moment, he even prefered this version. But years later, he recognizes the short version lacks the "inexorable passing of time" of the full one.
Let me recall this is the only film in history that has put toghether -for the production- all three major studios then, Fox, United Artists and Paramount.
All this information was taken from the book Bertolucci por Bertolucci, the spanish version of Scene madri di Bernardo Bertolucci, from Enzo Ungari, based on the interviews by Donald Ranvaud about The Last Emperor.
I definitely agree with the people asking for a remastering and release on DVD of the 5:25 original version.
on May 16, 2012
1900 is one of those odd films. Done by a very respected director with high-caliber talent (De Niro, Depardieu, Burt Lancaster, Sutherland, etc.) one would expect a film of legendary work. Alas, it is not. This is not to say that it is a failed attempt, but a film that causes as much frustration as satisfaction. There are moments of unbelievable beauty and awe, and others of disappointing audacity. Many times have I had my film buddy lean over to me during its unspooling and ask "What do you see in this?!" It's hard to answer, but suffice it to say that you will either love it or ignore it.
It is important to note that 1900 is also not for everyone; it is a very much an adult film. The sex scenes, in particular the menage-a-trois with DeNiro, Depardieu and the prostitute, are graphic but not excessive. There are quite a few scenes of violence that will cause the viewer to turn-away, so be prepared.
Much to my surprise, the film has been given the Blu-Ray treatment and the results are...not what a fan would want, but probably the best one can expect. The film's 5 1/2 running time is evenly spread out over 2 discs with a final DVD disc offering the only supplemental feature. As for the transfer, it is a mix. The opening credits are letterboxed (??) while the remaining film is presented in 1.85 (it was originally shot in 1:66). The image waffles from natural colors to overly saturated images that often made me think I needed to recalibrate my monitor or that is was on the wrong setting. The sound--which was never that memorable--is presented in Dolby Stereo and sounds as good as it did in the theaters.
Given that 1900 was never a huge audience favorite, I hadn't expected to see it on Blu-Ray so soon. While I would have hoped for a transfer that was more accurate to its original composition and not so muddy and overly saturated, it will have to suffice given its less then mediocre success.
I've done a little digging and it seems that this transfer is the same one as the DVD. Meaning--it is less than ideal. Robert Harris (who restored Lawrence of Arabia) recently posted a review and complained about the film's image constantly moving. Paying more attention to this Blu-Ray transfer, I also noticed this happening A LOT. The frame keeps shifting for some unknown reason and there is often a warping effect at times. Looking at the DVD that was released several years ago, those oddities also appeared but are less pronounced given its lower resolution. Frustrating beyond belief and it now makes it difficult to watch the film. Moreover, contrast is terrible as many whites are completely blown out losing all subtlety.
To sum up: Get the Blu-Ray if you are a true fan as it probably won't ever get any better. But it is disheartening to see such a lousy release of a film that really deserves better.
on January 6, 2002
"Novecento" was one of the most eagerly awaited movies of the seventies. It was meant to be, as Bertolucci himself intended, the Italian "Gone with the wind", an epic story about what happened in the "bel paese" during the first half of the twentieth century, the political turmoil between WW1 and WW2, the rise and fall of the fascism, the birth and widespread of the communist and socialist movements as a response to social injustice. There was a big project, the financial means to carry it out (American studios financing communist propaganda - can you believe that?), some of the world's best actors at the time. And what maybe matters the most there was Bernardo Bertolucci himself, whose political ideas have never been in glaring contradiction with the "Communist Manifesto". So who else could make this movie better than him? Having put this fabulous international team together the standards were set very, very high.
As much as I love Italy and Italians, as much as I love Bertolucci, and as much as I adore De Niro, Depardieu, Lancaster and Sutherland, I have to say this movie let me down a little bit. I mean it's a good movie, but it could have been much better. The problem is that one has to know what happened in Italy during that period of time to fully understand what the movie is really about. Bertolucci knew it beforehand, which probably explains his need to have the best French actor, the best American actor, some other excellent American actors besides his Italian actors troop (some of them are excellent by the way) to be in this movie. I think I can say that I know pretty well the Italian twentieth century history, and yet I think this movie is a little bit of a mess.
The Italian landscape, the countryside, the photography and the colors are really breathtaking. The director really knows how to suit the locations and paysage to almost every moment and particular scene of the movie. But to me, what misses the most in this movie is the dialog. You sit and watch scene after scene and you have the feeling that the movie is finally about to take off, but it doesn't, it quite never does. Yes, there are many excellent scenes, some of them being very explicit in a way or another, but this is the classic example of the total being too inferior to the sum of its separate parts.
As far as the acting is concerned, Lancaster is undoubtedly the one who gives the best performance here, and he seems really lucky to have played a relatively small part. Some of the scenes he's in are among the best of this movie. Depardieu is excellent too. Donald Sutherland is good, but every time he's on-screen one can't help wondering if he's frustrated because of the bizarre acts he has been told to perform or simply because he knows he has to act someone who, whatever the reason, seems to be constantly angry.
But to me the most disappointing is my all time favorite actor, the man himself, De Niro. He comes in and goes out, makes faces, smiles, chuckles, moans, groans and never seems to really be in this movie. Anonymous, that's the word that occurred to me while watching this film, as far as De Niro's acting is concerned. Luckily enough, this movie didn't harm that much his reputation at the time, and he went on later to give absolutely mesmerizing performances in gems like "The last tycoon", "The deer hunter" and "Raging bull".
I have only watched the original 6 hours long version, both in English and Italian, and I have to say I don't have any problems with the accents. I still keep watching this movie 25 years after its release, just to make sure I haven't missed anything before and to see if I can appreciate it more now. And I still keep thinking that this is a somewhat messy movie which failed to deliver the message and the promises it was supposed to deliver to the Italian public, and to a greater extent to the international public. To me this movie is a big project overwhelmed by its own intents.
If you're new to the Italian cinema you'd better try "Il conformista", "The last emperor" and "The last tango in Paris" by the same director, and try also the best of Fellini, Scola, Visconti, De Sica, Antonioni, Tornatore, and... oh yes, how could I forget, the master of the masters, Sergio Leone!
on March 29, 2001
From what I've seen in these reviews and others, you either love or hate this film. I saw it when it first came out in the 1970s and thought I had found the perfect film, except it seemed choppy in parts and the editing abrupt. I understand now that what I was seeing WAS badly edited and cut down from 6 hours to 4. This is a titan of a film, a real epic by any standards. And an epic worth telling. It needs time to relate its magnificent and complicated story. I know of few films that can convincingly explain how separation from fundamental values, such as our relationship to the earth and our resposibility to each other, can bring a civilization to the brink of destruction. The ending is powerful, especially in Bertolucci's vision of justice, quite a refreshing surprise after most Hollywood films. There's plenty of sex and violence in this film, you'll need a strong stomach for it. But there's also exquisite beauty in the images and in the characterizations. I've never liked Depardieu quite as much in any role since this. And DeNiro is perfectly suited to the winy, sensation-seeking son of the Padrone. I only wish I could see every frame of the original. I know that the version on laser-disc was longer than this VHS release, and the sex scene with DeNiro, Depardieu, and the prostitute was cut so as not to offend puritanical Americans. I have always wondered what else I was missing. I've always had the feeling, and I saw this film back in the 70's about 12 times, that the original uncut version would make more sense than the choppy version I had gotten to accept was 1900. I grew up in an Italian-American household and I for one have never been able to stomach the overdone mafioso stereotypes of Scorsese's "Godfather." This film, however, is a masterpiece.
on December 11, 2005
I'm still awaiting the American release of this magnificent epic. I've had this on VHS for over 15 years and have seen the film over 10 times. What a great way to spend five and a half hours!
There are magnificent performances by Deniro and Depardieu, by Dominique Sanda, Sterling Hayden, Burt Lancaster and others, including chilling performances by Donald Sutherland and Laura Betti. There are many memorable scenes as we travel through the 20th century captured by the always amazing cinematography of Vittorio Storarro which was at its apex in this film and il Conformisto.
While I appreciate Bertolucci's Socialist bent and his brilliant attacks on Fascism, the only down side to the film (if you don't mind the length) is Bertolucci's Socialist didacticism which is the only times the film loses its subtly and sinks to levels of propaganda.
Still this film compares favorably with other great epics of film history like the Godfather I & II and Lawrence of Arabia. Release it on DVD already!
on December 13, 2002
I fully agree with the reviewers who say that "1900" deserves to be seen in its full version. I have seen the butchered 4 hours version available on VHS and also the 5 hours and 20 minutes version in theaters. Even with the latter version, I felt that something was missing in the narration of the story. Some missing links in the story line...
This movie deserves the royal treatment: at least a widescreen version of the full length version (with the original soundtrack with English and French subtitles and the English dubbed version), if not a remastered version.
This movie is very important on all points of view: cinematic, visual, political, social and historical. A MUST ON DVD!!!
This has been called both a masterpiece and a mess. I am more inclined to side with the masterpiece assessment but with a few qualifications. Bertoluccis political sympathies have always fallen left of center and in this film he presents two characters born on the same day in 1900 but on opposite ends of the economic spectrum. Depardieu is the peasant, and De Niro the spoiled heir of a large estate. The film traces their friendship from childhood to old age. It is obvious that their friendship is the class struggle acted out in miniature but the story is not limited or overly burdened with that fact. In fact the story is too engaging and their experiences together too varied and complex to really see the class struggle as being more than just one factor in a friendship that has many sides to it.
There is so much for the eyes to savor in this film from the unbelievably opulent interiors of De Niro's palazzo to the estates surrounding gorgeous and lush farmlands where the very earthy Depardieu works and lives.
The most enjoyable part of the film is the 1920's when we meet a beautiful femme fatale played by Dominique Sanda. Bertolucci may like to play at being a communist but his camera betrays him when he films all the luxuries the rich surround themselves with. The period decor, the costumes, the cars, everything is greedily enjoyed by the camera. As good as De Niro and Depardieu are, Sanda steals the show whenever she is in view. She is one of the most beautiful actresses of the seventies and she gives a giddy performance. So long as she is indulging in all of her favorite vices she is immensely enjoyable to watch but eventually her naturally fragile, impressionable and wayward temperament(and Bertoluccis script) leads her to sympathize with the poor and despise her wealthy status.
Donald Sutherland is equally entertaining as Attila the blackshirt. He gives a very convincing portrait of a lowly subordinate who joins the fascists in a desperate attempt to lift himself up in the world but all he knows how to do is bully and coerce and commit gruesome acts to make him feel momentarily powerful.
A good part of the film transcends any agenda Bertolucci might have had. The characters each have a life that allows for complexity and contradiction. Bertoluccis communism, sincere or no, is just like a quiet guest at the table most of the time.
on September 25, 2006
This is the film that first introduced me to Bertolucci. What a find! 1900 is awesome in the true sense of the word. If you like epics, if history fascinates you, if a very personal tale told on the grandest of scales is what you go to the movies for, this is the film for you. From its first image ("Verdi is dead!") to its final amazing shot (the gigantic red flag of revolution being carried over the hills of Umbria) it is a masterpiece. The cast is unbeatable by any standard (Burt Lancaster! Dominique Sand! DeNiro! Depardieu! and on and on.) I've been waiting for this DVD for a long, long time.
on October 6, 2006
Truly a great movie. This Marxist epic spans decades, and is crafted with the technical brilliance, plot complexity and psychological depth that Bertolucci has displayed throughout his career. The cinematography by Storraro, the score by Morricone, and set designs are lush or neorealistic as needed, but always spot-on. And so many great performances - Burt Lancaster as the padrone, Sterling Hayden as his foreman, Dominique Sanda as the upper class femme fatale with a conscience, Stefania Sandrelli as her lower-class counterpart, DeNiro and Depardieu, there is so much to be said about this film, all of it positive. The sweep, the flow, the sudden narrative shocks - this is one of the great films of the past 40 years. Thank God it is finally available in DVD - my VHS copy is almost worn out from repeated viewings, and its GREAT that this release is the long, uncut version - much more coherent than the much shorter US release. A personal cinematic touchstone for me - and the Conformist is coming out too! FINALLY!!!!!!!!!!