â€œFucking God!,â€ screams an aging Marlon Brando in the 1972 film, â€œLast Tango in Paris.â€ Ragged and wilting, this certainly isnâ€™t the virile Brando of â€œJulius Caesarâ€ or â€œOn the Waterfront.â€ Heâ€™s weaker here, more vulnerable and intimate. And by the end of the film, heâ€™s cradled, dead, in a fetal position â€” broken.
This is the world of Bernardo Bertolucci. For more than 50 years, the innovative Italian director has, more than any other filmmaker, crafted a cinematic landscape of physical rawness and psychological intensity that continually re-defines the boundaries of what film can do or be. From the politically radical to the sexually graphic, Bertolucciâ€™s films are epic, rebellious and, above all, enigmatic.
Starting on Friday, July 8, the Pacific Film Archive will explore the maestroâ€™s dynamic canon with new prints of thirteen of his most notable films in their latest showcase, â€œBernardo Bertolucci: In Search of Mystery.â€
Born in 1941 to the poet and film critic Attilio Bertolucci, young Bernardo was raised in a world of lyrical expression. By the age of 21, he was already an award-winning novelist with his a burgeoning film career on the horizon. Released in 1962, his first feature, â€œThe Grim Reaperâ€ (â€œLa commare seccaâ€) explored the criminal undercurrent of human behavior with a Rashomon-esque tale centered around the murder of a prostitute.
Though perhaps derivative in plot, the combination of blunt brutality and overt sexuality in â€œThe Grim Reaperâ€ forged what would become the definitive style of Bertolucciâ€™s early career â€” violent sensuality. Working within the contemporary framework of Italian Neorealism and the emergent French New Wave, Bertolucciâ€™s films focus on the moral and emotional dilemmas of individuals within a turbulent society.