Celebrating Bertolucci

I think that I used to love Hollywood movies. I remember great phases and moments. But, unfortunately, now is not the moment.

Italian filmmaker Bernardo Bertolucci turns 70 today, with 45+ years of masterful contributions to cinema. As the above quote suggests, Bertolucci has spent his career fighting Hollywood cliches and hackneyed plots. He strongly resists any kind of censorship, and he refuses to play it safe. This is what makes Bertolucci worth studying in film classes, worth admiring above the rest.

One of the visually stunning shots in "The Conformist" (1970)

My two favorite films of his are The Conformist (1970) and The Dreamers (2003) – both films that are simultaneously unnerving and magnificent. The former is a political drama revolving around Fascism, and the latter is an art film about sexual and political revolution of youth in Paris, 1968.

Still from "The Dreamers" (2003), in a scene referencing French New Wave film "Band of Outsiders" (1964, Godard)

Though very sexually graphic and at times disturbing, The Dreamers is especially amazing to watch given its numerous references to famous art films before and of the time of the 1960s. (Credit is of course also due to Gilbert Adair, writer of the novel the movie was based on and the screenplay itself.)

All great filmmakers remain film students throughout their entire careers. They never stop learning, and they move forward while looking back. Bertolucci is a prime example of a filmmaker who has never ceased to be a student of film, and because of his adoration for the craft, he is among the most adored.