This is an artistically well-done movie if there ever was one. In fact, I don't think it would be going too far to call it Bernardo Bertolucci's best movie.
The film centers around an American girl (Liv Tyler) who travels over to Italy to visit her relatives. While there, she gains the friendship of an older writer (Jeremy Irons) who is dying of cancer. Tyler exudes a youthful, natural and yet mysterious beauty which complements Irons' masculine, distinguished screen-presence quite nicely. In many sequences, Tyler is photographed so elegantly that she appears to be a model for one of Boticelli's paintings.
Juxtaposed with this bonding is the desire for Tyler's character to lose her virginity. In this rite-of-passage, her dying friend becomes her mentor. They both want it to be "special," but she is also tempted to just "do it" with the efficacy of becoming a complete woman.
As the cover of the DVD shows Liv Tyler nude, a lot of guys are probably wondering if this is a movie in which she actually bares anything. The answer is......yes! There are a few brief scenes in which she is topless. To my knowledge, this is the only film in which she appears nude.
Filmed on the sun-drenched verdant rolling green countryside of Italy, the movie is colorfully illustrated by vibrant contrasts of red and green. The cinematography goes a long way towards giving the story a distinctly Italian flavor.
So, if you're Italian, like Italian stuff, enjoy aesthetically pleasing films, admire Jeremy Irons or have a crush on Liv Tyler, this movie is for you. If none of these things appeal to you, this probably is not a DVD for you.
on March 19, 2005
The first time I watched this movie I was about seventeen. And from my considerably naïve 17 year old perspective this seemed like a deeply engaging, very interesting and ultimately romantic movie. Though I was not oblivious to the juxtaposition of things traditionally romanticized with less than romantic realities, I was largely distracted by Lucy's own journey to give anything else much thought. It was likely the first time that I saw a well developed character like Lucy who wasn't the confident bubblegum type of romantic heroine that I was accustomed to seeing. Perhaps that says more about the movies I was watching at the time than anything else, but Lucy's imperfections and awkwardness resonated with me and "Stealing Beauty very quickly became one of my favourite movies.
Last Sunday, almost ten yeats later, I sat down to watch it again.
I am more aware now of the interesting and at times somewhat fetishistic ways in which Lucy's virginity was treated by the men and women around her. This is just a personal opinion rather than a critique; but there's an interesting ugliness in the men's reactions to Lucy that is more pronounced now that I watch it again. I'm much more interested in the way that characters like Chris, Alex and Nicolo react to (and take advantage of) Lucy (and the idea of Lucy) as well as Lucy's responses to them. And I think that such interesting complexities are a credit to the way that Bertolucci tells his stories as a director. Though I see it differently now, Stealing Beauty remains one of my favourite films.
on May 29, 2002
After a trio of exotic disappointments (The Last Emperor, The Sheltering Sky, Little Buddha), director Bernardo Bertolucci teturned to his native Italy for the first time in fifteen years with Stealing Beauty. The result is his most intimate film since Last Tango In Paris, a coming-of-age tale in which 19-year-old Lucy Harmon (Liv Tyler) travels from America to Tuscany to spend time with family friends following her mother's suicide. She has a couple of ulterior motives for taking the trip--to discover the real identity of her father and lose her virginity to Niccolo, an Italian boy who was her first love as a young teenager.
The story is a flimsy construct but it's well supported by Tyler's appealing, open performance, some sharp playing from Jeremy Irons, Donal McCann and Sinead Cusack, and Darius Khondji's supple, deep focus photography. Bertolucci relies a little heavily on music cues to telegraph emotions but he's in full control of this subtle tale, which proceeds in a languorous daze to a tender and touching close. There are those who still bemoan the director's forsaking of political themse to concentrate wholly on the personal, but the film-making skill and the understanding of the human heart apparent in such films as The Spider's Stratagem and The Conformist are still very much in evidence here. It may focus on the soul rather than the state, but Stealing Beauty feels just as important as anything Bertolucci has made in the past.
on March 6, 2005
Liv Tyler vividly conveys Lucy's ambivalent feelings about sex and the different ways she tries to negotiate the uneasiness (or intrigue) of her elders in the presence of such youthful innocence. Stealing Beauty demonstrates that Bernardo Bertolucci is as adept at intimate drama as he is with epic productions.
This is also a movie for every girl who wished losing her virginity had been more pleasant.
Say under a tree on a hilltop in Tuscany with a gentle, compassionate boy after spending a week at a vineyard having probing and interesting conversations with a dozen artists and writers.
Bernardo Bertolucci is one of those directors you either love or hate. He can easily rub someone the wrong way with his exploitation and ceaseless explicit content, but when one understands the message behind Bertolucci's apparent sensual frustrations he can be appreciated for much more than he is usually regarded as. His films are not mere `skin flicks' as some have felt the need to wrongfully accuse them of being. In fact, some of his films are sheer masterpieces (`Last Tango in Paris' is above and beyond one of the best films ever made) and even those that fall somewhat short of his intellectual reaching (`The Dreamers' was close but yet so far from his potential) are still much more than meets the eye. `Stealing Beauty' is one of his weaker films, for it doesn't have the emotional or even the political depth of his other work, but it still manages to carry itself rather well and touches upon much more than bare skin.
The story is a coming of age tale that revolves around a nineteen year old virgin named Lucy. After her mother's suicide, Lucy travels to Italy to visit friends of her mothers. Her mother had journeyed to this artistic retreat twenty years prior and had become pregnant with Lucy, so Lucy's agenda in visiting is to find her real father; and lose her virginity. There are many different individuals whom she meets and forms friendships with, including Ian, the serious sculptor who is intrigued by Lucy's innocence, as well as Alex, the dying guest who stimulates Lucy intellectually.
And then there are a slew of young Italian boys who find her just utterly delicious.
While the film centers itself on Lucy's libido and her desire to lose that prized possession known as her virginity (why are we so quick to give away something so precious) it isn't merely about that act. While staying at this home Lucy is given a glimpse a life very far removed from her own; a life of carefree passions and removed from all scrutiny. There are scenes where characters parade about in the nude; no one reluctant but everyone comfortable and content. It appears shocking to some and maybe even repulsive, but the truth of the matter is that Bertolucci is trying to show the contrasting variables of self contentment. As an American culture we are often guarded, as if we are afraid to expose ourselves to others. The fact that everyone at this house is that open, even the unfit and or older ones, shows that there is a level of self respect and love that is not found in a lot of individuals today.
The acting is all pretty well done, with only a few missteps. Sinead Cusack and Rachel Weisz stand out amidst all the pretty faces as two very talented and very moving actresses. Liv Tyler is gorgeous and has a sense of restraint needed to carry her character, but she does at times get lost in the scenes. A lot has been said over Jeremy Irons performance, but personally I didn't find him nearly as moving as the late Donal McCann who handled Ian with such fervor. He really understood how to embody his character with the right amount of smoldering sensuality that made him utterly irresistible. His eyes were just downright piercing.
This is no where near as deeply investing as `Last Tango in Paris', but it is much more than some reviewers have made it sound. This is not a `boring film only good for a shot of Tyler's goods' but a sensible and honest portrait of a young girl finding herself amidst people who truly understand what it means to be free.
on December 12, 2006
Italian director Bernardo Bertolucci brings that certain European pacing and feel to his movies, even though the past several have been made in English and often with at least one American actor. This means you can expect a great amount of talking and very little action, which can be wonderful if you are in the right frame of mind. He also brings that European attitude toward sexuality and nudity (and no, I am not equating the two), which is to say his actors are fairly uninhibited. He usually peppers his films with a fair amount of nudity and/or sex, and "Stealing Beauty" is no exception. It is no secret the average American is much more inhibited about his or her body than the average European, which provides the filmmaker with an opportunity for commentary. American teen, Lucy, visits her family in Tuscany shortly after her mother's passing in order to find her father. She is taken aback, however, when she heads to the swimming pool one day and finds everyone lounging about naked. She declines to join in. Eventually, however, she loosens up enough to expose a breast while posing for a portrait. "When in Rome..." (or in the vicinity, anyway). Bertolucci is providing a view of the Italian way of life, or at least those aspects that interest him most, through the eyes of an American. He compares and contrasts the two cultures with details that seem too obvious to even illuminate. It is interesting that Lucy seems to find more in common with some of the Italians she meets than she does with some of the Americans there. Over the course of the film, beauty takes precedence over deeper levels of meaning, though this is not necessarily to the film's detriment. This is essentially a coming-of-age story, with Lucy learning to enjoy life's simple pleasures, including sex. It is evident that Bertolucci finds beauty and pleasure to be of the utmost importance, which makes this subject a perfect fit for him. Liv Tyler is up to the task of carrying this film and the rest of the cast is marvelous as well. This is one to enjoy for its characters, its mood and yes, its beauty.
on February 16, 2005
I have to address the boredom issue. This movie is boring, ONLY if you like and are used to big blockbuster films like Spiderman. Or maybe you are a Hillary Duff or Reese Witherspoon fan. But, if you like cinematic greats and you wish to think while watching a film, then you won't be bored. Liv Tyler is beautiful, but that isn't what makes this film beautiful. It is the director, it is Italy, it is the scenery, it is the the observance of the sensual in life, and yes also the story. I worked at Blockbuster while in college and every person who was too lazy to read a back cover would ask for my recommendation and when I suggested this movie or to name a few-Titus, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Laurel Canyon, Swimming Pool, Frida, Last Temptation of Christ, Personal Velocity-they would ask to see it and when I took them to the single box-they were put off. So, what I'm getting at if you like popular movies, action mostly, and find it hard to read a back cover than yeah this movie would bore the hell out of you. To the rest of you. It is inspiring in its beauty and like a good novel it stays with you in your mind and soul. It is a beautiful gem and I want to move to Italy and hang out with my bohemian friends now!!!!
on July 7, 2004
I really like this movie. The scenery is beautiful and the movie's focus on the interactions between a variety of characters in the Italian countryside is interesting. I would rate it higher except for one thing- quite a bit of the movie is in Italian and there are no subtitles for this dialogue. This really doesn't make sense, especially considering the vhs copy that I use to own did have them. The parts in Italian aren't just snippets of dialogue either- some are entire conversations. If you've seen this many times with subtitles (and know what they're saying in Italian) I would definitely buy it. If not, it's still a good purchase but be aware that you're missing quite a bit of the movie.
on March 19, 2006
I agree with the reviews to date. Liv has such a beauty but this movie is not about nudity. I think the directory uses nudity to prolong the plot, if there is one. I have learned not to expect an intense plot from this director and as such can relax into his films. Combine physical beauty, wonderful scenery, and artsy acting and this makes a nice afternoon.
Truly this film would only rate 3 stars if it were not for the nubile beauty of Liv. I think previous reviewers have said that better than I can.
on October 16, 2007
This movie is erotic in every way but more than that it appeals to all the senses. Tremendous acting, plausible story line, lush country side scenery, interesting insight into the lives and minds of real artists living the lives of real artists with all their human frailties, intense and interesting relationships that variously develop, restore, and erode into oblivion. Excellent movie on all levels and for the life of me I cannot figure why the price of this DVD is so cheap.