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In Mussolini's Italy, repressed Jean-Louis Trintignant, trying to purge memories of a youthful, homosexual episode--and murder--joins the Fascists in a desperate attempt to fit in. As the reluctant Judas motors to his personal Gethsemane (the assassination of his leftist mentor), he flashes back to a dance party for the blind; an insane asylum in a stadium; and wife Stefania Sandrelli and lover Dominique Sanda dancing the tango in a working class hall. But those are only a few of this political thriller's anthology pieces, others including Trintignant's honeymoon coupling with Sandrelli in a train compartment as the sun sets outside their window; a bimbo lolling on the desk of a fascist functionary, glimpsed in the recesses of his cavernous office; a murder victim's hands leaving bloody streaks on a limousine parked in a wintry forest. Bernardo Bertolucci's masterpiece, adapted from the Alberto Moravia novel, boasts an authentic Art Deco look created by production designer Ferdinando Scarfiotti, a score by the great Georges Delerue (Contempt, Jules and Jim, and That Man From Rio) and breathtaking color cinematography by Vittorio Storaro.
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I love this film. I have previously owned it on VHS and DVD and I've watched it at least 50 times. I couldn't wait for Blu Ray and it does not disappoint. To be sure, the original material is subject to the limits of production that existed at the time it was made. Much of the movie is shot in softer focus than we are accustomed to these days. The titles still suffer from some color bleed and the soundtrack is still a bit tinny. But this is an art house movie. No one is ever going to underwrite a complete Blu Ray remaster and overhaul.
Instead, you can expect a HD transfer of a pristine print, giving you access to more of the cinematography, as it was intended for the big screen. This turns out to be very important, since this is universally acknowledged to be a masterpiece of cinematography. The images acquire a remarkable depth of field, and I found myself noticing details I'd never seen before. I found the extent to which this change alone amplified the film's drama and pathos quite remarkable.
The translation is also very, very good. Previous subs and dubs have failed to capture the literary nuance of the script, adapted from Alberto Moravia's masterpiece of the same name. Somehow the English dub here has been improved dramatically over it's incarnation in DVD, and a LOT more of the book comes through. It's not clear to me exactly what they did to fix it. The voices sound identical, and the memorable lines have been translated in the same way, but the speech fits the action much, MUCH better than the DVD sub did. Watching the English dub with Italian subtitles (and vice versa) gives access to much more of the Italian script than was possible with previous editions. One problem: the dub was missing from several scenes on my copy. I don't really care, but it is a little disappointing, mostly because the new dub is unusually good.
The Blu Ray edition also eliminates the abrupt between-scene cuts that featured prominently in older editions. I always found these jarring, and it's nice to learn that they were artifacts of a bad edit, and not a sour note by Mr. Bertolucci.
Excellent quality, comparable to CC releases. My only issue was that the font size of the subtitles was very small and the white letters were on occasion impossible to read.
There are two marvelous scenes in this.fine film that deserve special attention; the murder scene in the forest and the tango In the café in Paris.
Also. Trintignant gives his usual subtle performance. He will give just a glimpse of a smile sometimes which conveys his understanding of a situation similar to what he did in "Z". Also, Bertolucci in the interview section of the BR gives him credit for supplying "color" to a gray role by his unexpected body language and hints of humor.
This film has always been one of my favorites and it was a pleasure to add it to my BR library.
The film perfectly walks a knife's edge between realism and surrealism, supported by Vitorio Storraro's breathtaking and unique cinematography.
The film works brilliantly on a simple realist level. A sort of political thriller and character study (much like Coppola's 'The Conversation') we follow an agent of Mussolini's secret police (a great performance by Jean-Louis Trintignant, even dubbed into Italian) as he's sent to assassinate one of his old professors, now teaching in exile in Paris. On that level the film is filled with odd twists and turns as Marcello tries to carry out his mission.
But there's also something larger and more mysterious being explored here, from the constant not-quite-realistic images, to Marcello's
occasionally very odd (and sometimes funny) behavior, to the flashbacks to an early homosexual encounter, we are trapped, with the character, in a sort of Kafkaesque dream world. It's as if somehow Bertolluci has pulled off the very neat trick of making a film that's simultaneously objective and subjective, a dream and a reality, surreal and hyper-real. And he makes the two dance together to create a bigger whole.
My only tiny quibble;, a few moments seem a little too on the nose in their symbolism for a film of such subtlety, but that's a tiny complaint about a great film.
The Raro blu-ray is the very best transfer, at least to my eye. Sharpest, deepest. The UK Arrow blu-ray is fine, but lags a couple of steps behind. The DVD is watchable, but I've upgraded twice since then, and this film deserves it.
Some films just leave images stuck in your mind this is one of them, a great film please watch!