Saturday, April 6, 2013

615. Novecento/1900 (1976)

Running Time: 320 minutes
Directed By: Bernardo Bertolucci
Written By: Franco Arcalli, Bernardo Bertolucci, Giuseppe Bertolucci
Main Cast: Robert De Niro, Gerard Depardieu, Dominique Sanda, Donald Sutherland, Alida Valli


For some reason or another, I really thought I'd like "1900", which is why I scheduled it to be the 50th film I took in this season. Despite being directed by a director who's work I'd never seen (Bertolucci), there was still some sort of appeal there and hey, Ennio Morricone did the soundtrack, so there was always that to fall back on. Well, as pleasing as the Morricone score was, "1900" just didn't do it for me.

With a film that runs over five hours long, you'd think that it would require an extremely in-depth plot synopsis, filled with tons of details and summarizing a range of different characters. Well, I'll be damned if this one won't be easy as pie to sum up. Yes, the film is over five hours in length, but NOTHING happens! Okay, okay, some stuff happens, but there were long periods of time where I just wanted to gouge my eyes out, so I'd have an excuse to stop watching. The film really gets going with the birth of Alfredo Berlinghieri and Olmo Dalco, who are both born on the same day. Alfredo's grandfather (Burt Lancaster) is a landowner and the patriarch of an aristocratic family and Olmo's grandfather (Sterling Hayden) is his top worker, who comes from a family of hard working peasants. Despite their families' different social statuses, Alfredo and Olmo become childhood friends, catching frogs together and comparing their "manhood". They, as children tend to do, grow up and as they do, they grow apart. Olmo fights in World War I and Alfredo is protected by his father, so that he won't have to fight. As time goes by, the two become part of rival groups: Alfredo, one of the heads of the fascist party and Olmo, a leader for the socialists. Alfredo meets and marries a girl, Ada (Sanda) and Olmo must continue to fight for the rights of his people. Oh yeah, Donald Sutherland's in there too and he plays a bat shit crazy foreman to the padrone and the leader of a "black shirt" mafia, fighting for fascism.

Yep and that all takes five hours to unfold. THE BOOK notes that the film assumes a basic knowledge of Italian history before entering into it and that's something that I didn't have. Whether or not that barred me from enjoying it more is unknown to me. All I do know is that I really checked out of this one at about the halfway mark. I was still watching and paying attention, but my mind was pretty much already made up and from there on out, I was just going through the motions. The cast was okay, but I was watching a dubbed in English version, which may have taken away from some of the "oomph" of the acting talents on display. THE BOOK even notes that the "belabored message will force the viewer to seek pleasure elsewhere", noting that the performances of De Niro and Depardieu is the place to seek that pleasure. I don't know about all that, because the real star of the show for me was Donald Sutherland. What a freaking psychotic this guy portrays - killing cats and children and in BRUTAL fashion.

I will say this in defense of the film: It look magnificent, even rivaling "The Travelling Players" as best looking movie I've seen all season. There are dozens upon dozens of shots that will leave your eyes begging for more (which is why I DIDN'T gouge my eyes out ;). Other than that, I really have nothing positive to add to this review. The film was exploring a part of history that I was oblivious to and the film didn't really teach me much either. I really wanted to like it. The Morricone score was pretty good, but nowhere near as good as his Leone scores or even that of "Cinema Paradiso". The film just drags on for so long, that by the time it's over you're just glad it's over. There are literally hours of film time where you look back in retrospect and realize that they've just used up an hour and barely advanced the story. In a perfect world, my recommendation would be to just watch this movie on mute and allow your eyes to feast on the visual treats. However, I know there are other list hounds out there, just like me, who will want to watch this movie and all I can say is good luck and I hope you do better with it than I did. As for me, this was ONE OF the hardest things THE BOOK has put me through.

RATING: 4/10  I can't go lower than a '4' because like I said, the film is a visual masterpiece and it sounds really good too, thanks to Morricone. Everything else, however, just fell through the strainer.


April 6, 2013  9:44pm


  1. I am usually very tollerant of films in THE BOOK that i didn't, personaly, like or enjoy. I tend to regard the weird as "well, it was different" and thank the book for making me sit through it however bored i was, believing (as you sometimes put it) all human endevour is worth something.
    Talking about needing editing.. there was a superb film in here.. even if it was half the length.
    No, I was severely dissapointed with this one..

    1. I agree, there was something in there, but it was lost in the thick of things.


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