Classic: Bernardo Bertolucci’s Epic ‘1900’

1900” (Olive) – Gerard Depardieu and Robert De Niro play childhood friends — a peasant and the scion of a vast country estate, respectively — who become bitter enemies on opposite side of the political battle in Bernardo Bertolucci’s sprawling epic. A film of earthy passion and raw violence, it charts the volatile struggle between the socialist dream and the Fascist nightmare of Italy’s agrarian past in the years between the World Wars, within a framework that opens on the turn of the century and the promise of the new century. The international cast includes Dominique Sanda, Burt Lancaster, Sterling Hayden, Donald Sutherland, Alida Valli, Romolo Valli, Anna-Maria Gherardi, and Laura Betti.

Originally cut by over an hour for American release, this release features the complete 315-minute director’s cut released on Europe with three separate audio options: English, Italian, and French language soundtracks. Previously released on DVD by Paramount, Olive offers a DVD upgrade and the Blu-ray debut of the film. The film is spread across two discs and a third DVD offers the accompanying 51-minute documentary “Bernardo Bertolucci: Reflections on Cinema” from 2002.

More off-the -rack releases at Videodrone

‘Going Places’ on TCM

The original French title of Going Places is Les valseuses, French slang for “The Testicles” (“The Nuts” would be its English counterpart). That’s a pretty accurate description of Bertrand Blier’s characters, a pair of aimless, amoral twenty-something buddies bouncing (or escaping) from one situation to another, all instigated by their own mix of childlike bad behavior and poor impulse control. You could call Going Places a sex comedy where sex has become some joyless act instigated out of instinct; a road movie where the road is less a promise of freedom than an escape hatch from whatever trouble they’ve landed themselves in; or a crime spree comedy of petty offences by dim crooks driven more by the thrill of transgression than the reward of ill-gotten gains.

Jean-Claude (Gérard Depardieu, all thuggish charm and studly swagger) and Pierrot (Patrick Dewaere as his often reluctant partner in crime) are not cute or creative rebels with a cause. These smug, swaggering young men are crude, often cruel petty thieves without principle or a master plan. They run on pure impulse and Blier takes pains to show these guys at their worst in the opening scenes. They harass a middle-aged woman before snatching her purse, force a mother on an otherwise deserted train to breastfeed her infant in front of them (and then let Pierrot have his turn at the teat), and all but sell a girl kidnapped in a getaway as part of an auto trade-in with a chop-shop owner. It turns out that the girl, named Marie-Ange and played by Miou-Miou, doesn’t mind being used as a sex toy. It’s just that these self-proclaimed studs fail to rouse her sexually. She just lays there, inert and bored, as they compete to get a reaction from her. After being the fall-back bed for Jean-Claude and Pierrot between misadventures, she just falls in as the third leg of this bohemian ménage-a-trois, content to drift along with them from one scam to the next: Bonnie and Clyde and Clyde.

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Inspector Bellamy on TCM

Claude Chabrol was one of the young critics-turned-filmmakers who ushered in the Nouvelle Vague in France and never stopped making movies once he started. He earned himself the sobriquet “the Gallic Hitchcock” for the psychologically compelling, emotionally jagged mysteries and thrillers that became his stock in trade over his fifty-year career and when he died in late 2010, he left behind a legacy of some eighty features, shorts pieces and television films made over a fifty year period. And yet it wasn’t until his final feature, Inspector Bellamy, that this grand old man of French cinema collaborated with another enduring French icon: Gerard Depardieu, the former scruffy-but-charming leading man turned bearish veteran with a commanding screen presence. While the lightfingered, offbeat murder mystery may not be one of Chabrol’s greatest works, there are major pleasure to be had in the final film from the old master.

Clovis Cornillac and Gerard Depardieu

Depardieu is the titular Bellamy, a veteran police detective and minor celebrity thanks to a memoir that an awful lot of folks in this small coastal town have read. He’s ostensibly on vacation with his wife Francoise (Marie Bunel) but as she observes, “Vacation is not in his vocabulary.” Sure enough, he soon drifts into a curious mystery involving an overtly enigmatic man (Jacques Gamblin) in hiding and the wreckage (physical and emotional) of what appears to be a botched attempt at faking his death. Depardieu has ballooned into a hulking bear of an actor but even with all that girth he brings an easy grace to Bellamy, a man who embraces the simple pleasure in life, be it food, cigars, wine or the crossword puzzles that he uses to occupy his wandering mind. In a sense, this mystery is simply a much more engaging challenge, which his wife understands all too well.

Continue reading on Turner Classic Movies here, in a double-shot DVD review shared with Michael Atkinson.

The Final Feature from Claude Chabrol: Inspector Bellamy

Inspector Bellamy (IFC)

The final film by Claude Chabrol, the savvy nouvelle vague director who earned himself the sobriquet “the Gallic Hitchcock” for the psychologically compelling, emotionally jagged mysteries and thrillers that highlight his long (and sometimes rocky) career, may not be one of his great works, but there are major pleasure to be had in the minor production from an old master.

Gerard Depardieu is Inspector Bellamy

Hard to believe that in a career of some eighty features, shorts pieces and television films, this is the first time Chabrol worked with Gerard Depardieu, who stars as the titular Bellamy, a veteran police detective and minor celebrity thanks to his memoir. He’s ostensibly on vacation with his wife Francoise (Marie Bunel), but as she observes, “Vacation is not in his vocabulary.” He adores her and she understands him and merely makes wry remarks as he drifts into a curious mystery involving an overtly enigmatic man (Jacques Gamblin) in hiding and the wreckage (physical and emotional) of what appears to be a botched attempt at faking his death. As Bellamy drifts through the orbit of a missing embezzler, pulling at strands that the local police seem unable to grab to understand the real story behind a seemingly simple case of homicide, his ne’er-do-well brother Jacques (Clovis Cornillac) blows into town with a new investment scheme and the same old shenanigans and jealousies that start them going around and around like scrapping boys.

Continue reading “The Final Feature from Claude Chabrol: Inspector Bellamy”