La commare secca (1962)

Bernardo Bertolucci is one of those “great” filmmakers who’s simply passed me by. Only ever seen one of his films (Last Tango in Paris), which I only ever saw once about 13-14 years ago, never really been inclined to hunt any more of his work out, probably because I really didn’t like Last Tango back then… anyway, I found this at the library recently, his 1962 debut feature written by Pasolini, and I didn’t like it either; to be honest I gave up on the attempt about an hour into it after I realised I kept pausing the thing every now and then to do something else on the computer so obviously I wasn’t getting far with it. It draws comparisons, on account of its narrative structure, to Rashomon (though Bertolucci has apparently always denied the influence), but I think simply calling it a cheap ripoff of Kurosawa as one IMDB reviewer does is just facile and unfair; there’s a murder mystery underpinning both, but the respective motivations behind the two films are quite different, plus Pasolini’s story revolves around a group of unconnected people unlike Kurosawa’s… and to give Bertolucci credit, it’s pretty confident of itself for a debut feature by someone aged only 21 with limited experience. But god/dess it’s boring. Although Bertolucci tried as hard as possible in the actual shooting of Pasolini’s story to distance the film from Pasolini’s own style (as evinced in Accattone, his own debut film from just the year before), the story is still by the older man and it revolves around his interest in Roman low-life, thieves pimps and so forth… pretty ghastly people they are too, and eventually I just came to the conclusion that I didn’t care what these people were doing in the park at that time of night, what they did or didn’t see there, who did or didn’t kill that prostitute, I didn’t care about any of it. I could live without knowing. I’ve got 1900 on loan too, so hopefully that will click for me…

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