Monday, October 25, 2010

The Fascist Conformist

I used to have a video tape of Bernardo Bertolucci’s epic film “The Last Emperor” which I never cared to watch for the reason that I hated Art House movies. For me those movies are like mathematics which doesn’t make sense unless someone explains to you the meaning of what you’ve just watched. Movies should be entertaining first and everything else rest. Art house movies are Visual Philosophy, contemplative and self-indulging, slow paced and dramatic.
I had no idea about what to expect from the movie. It was listed in the Entertainment Weekly’s 100 greatest cinemas of the World. Since I have heard the name of the director before, I thought I would give it a shot. It isn’t that boring and it isn’t that interesting. The Italians always have an interesting yet boring way of shooting films. The film is beautifully shot and the story is not that bad, but the craft of storytelling is a bit boring at least in my opinion. I know I’m in dangerous territory here by discrediting the work of one of 20the Century’s greatest filmmaker. Hell, I don’t give a damn.
It’s the story of an Italian Fascist Spy, who is sent to France to kill the leader of the opposition of the Fascist regime, falls in love with his target’s wife and finally denounces his evil regime when they are thrown out of power.
The film is unraveled in a series of flashbacks leading up to the events shown at the beginning. This unconventional, nonlinear way of storytelling is what keeps you interested in the movie. If it was shown in a normal timeline it would have made you realize how slow and shallow it is.
The Movie incorporates the protagonist’s memories, his attempt to have a normal life by having a wife, his confrontations with his parents and his past. It primarily discusses the connections between sex and violence. In his childhood, he has a homosexual encounter with his chauffeur which ends up in the death of the driver at the hands of the boy. He also falls in love with the beautiful wife of the professor and tries to subdue her. But she and her husband are aware of his Fascist connections and are concerned with his ominous presence. His newly wed wife is a bimbo whose concerns of life are limited to fashion and sex. Mostly dialogue driven,which is deep with philosophical inundations and not much of action going on, this movie gets interesting only when the heroines shed their clothes. The Two leading actresses are simply stunning and you can’t wait for them to put down their dresses and even, in one instance of the movie, have a lesbian encounter.
One thing that stands out is the poetic cinematography and the flawless editing. A must watch if you are a serious movie buff and forgettable if you are in just for the goods. Bernardo Bertolucci’s work are known for (and sometimes notorious, like in the case of Last Tango in Paris) their erotic content. But he’s also known for his epic other movies like the Last Emperor and Siddhartha, the biopic of Lord Buddha.


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