This Sweltering Guy

The word is out —

Fiona, Stephen C. Horne and I have contributed a video essay to the forthcoming Arrow Blu-ray on Bertolucci’s THE SHELTERING SKY. It streets in November.

One thing we missed —

I identified the above shot as an echo of Orson Welles —

And I think I was bang on, given Bertolucci’s talk of his Wellesian influence. What I overlooked, but producer Neil Snowden pointed out, is a more direct connection —

Now, I don’t know if Coppola had a great influence on Bertolucci generally — I know the reverse is true — but Vittorio Storaro shot both APOCALYPSE NOW and THE SHELTERING SKY so that is, one might say, highly relevant. A case of me leapfrogging past the fundamental in search of the obscure. 

6 Responses to “This Sweltering Guy”

  1. mikeclelland Says:

    Thank you so much for all the Bertolucci posts. I moved to New York in 1981 as a freshman NYU film student. I dropped out to study film (that was a line I’ve used since, and it’s true). I feel like I learned more by going to the city’s repertory theaters than I did within the college setting.

    Anyway, I was so mesmerized by Bertolucci–along with a slew of other Italian directors. To see all these glorious movies in a theater was absolutely transcendent.

    For me, so many of these were more like dreams than films.

    There was also a cultural divide, and the weight of some of these films (like 1900) boggled me. I was peering into someone else’s subconscious. I miss that kind of boldness.

    As always, wishing Momo the best.

    PS: I heart LUNA

    Mike C!

  2. Hope you can get your hands on this disc when it comes out, it promises to be luscious!

    Bertolucci opening his head and letting his subconscious spill onto the celluloid somehow blended beautifully with his more rational, political side. One without the other wouldn’t be the same.

  3. David Ehrenstein Says:

    The thing about Bertolucci is of all directors of note to emerge in the 1960’s he never steps in the same river twice. “La Commare Secca” is an adaptation of Pasolini stories. “Before the revolution” is Bernardo’s post-adolescent cri de coeur. But “Partner” isn’t anything like it. Neither is “Agonia.” “The Conformist” made him an international name. But “Novecento” while international in cast is entirely Italian at heart. “Tragedy of a Ridiculous Man” (scandalously underrated) is Italian too but intimate. “Last Tango in Paris” is very French and makes intimacy spectacular. “Luna” tries and fails to connect with a primarily English-speaking audience. Unfortunately it’s an audience that doesn’t care as much about opera as he does. “The Last Emperor” is a remake of “The Conformist” but its true auteur is Pater O’Toole. “The Sheltering Sky” is a startlingly precise exploration of Paul Bowles. “Little Buddha” is by and large a love letter to Keanu Reeves (get in line, Bernardo!) “Stealing Beauty” is Bernardo’s “Rochelle, Rochelle” (see “Seinfeld) “Besieged” is an attempt to create sexual excitement with a pair of wet blankets. “The Dreamers” is a dispiriting failure in its inability to create a love scene between Louis Garrel and Michael Pitt. Haven’t seen “Him and Me” Few have.

  4. Yes, I must see Me and You… sometime.

    It’s true, while Bertolucci (with Storaro) has a distinctive, if highly versatile, visual style, his films are indeed defined by their wild variety.

    I like Rosenbaum’s idea that BB’s overall project was to reconcile Marx and Freud, but as he noted, after The Last Emperor this ceases to be the case, and the films become even more diverse.

  5. Sudarshan Ramani Says:

    Reconciling Marx and Freud was also Eisenstein’s project, achieving fruition with Ivan the Terrible. Bertolucci in that sense is his inheritor.

    Good point about Bertolucci not stepping in the same river twice, David Ehrenstein. The survey is great, but you forgot to include The Spider’s Strategem, which is probably his most Freudian movie, and genuinely quite Borgesian (befitting its source).

  6. It’s certainly Oedipal, but so is La Luna.

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