1900 (1976)

God, was it back in January that I said I had this on loan from Brendan? Um… yes. And I think I’d had it for a couple of months even by then. Moral of the story: don’t lend me stuff if you want it back in a hurry… ANYWAY: 1900, or Novecento if you will. Long, isn’t it? Although exactly how long is something I’m not sure of; the two discs of the Australian MGM edition have clearly each come from different masters, with the first disc looking markedly nicer than the second but also lacking the second disc’s multiple language options. And with PAL speed-up taken into account, it still clocks in several minutes shorter than the supposedly uncut version despite having scenes only found in that version. Maybe it’s the inexplicably missing opening credits? I don’t know. Either way, this is still now the longest film I’ve ever sat through in a single sitting (beating Bernard’s Les misĂ©rables by about half an hour), for what that may be worth, and I don’t think I expect that record to be broken any time soon if ever. The 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die book’s entry for this film ominously remarks that it’s “not meant to be entertaining” and calls it “visually rewarding if heavy-handed”, which strikes me as fair; if the narrative boils down to the conflict between communism and fascism in Italy, the film itself is a comparable conflict between nuance and broadly stroked schematics, except in that battle nuance never had the slightest chance (melodrama hits hardest in the second half)… especially not in the face of Donald Sutherland’s fascist thug, though I can’t tell if he was just hitting the ham switch or if that was just the ghastliness of the character. Maybe both. Let’s face it, none of the characters are especially appealing, some are merely less so than others; the story just assigns them one of the respective sides of the struggle and fails to let them be particularly interesting (and the non-English speakers in the cast aren’t really helped by the English dub either). Does look lovely, though (well, it did on disc 1), Bertolucci gets full visual value out of the rural setting. And if he really didn’t intend to make an entertaining film, I suppose he deserves credit for succeeding there. And credit, too, for the ambition at work; I mean, really, you simply do not make something like this casually (well, maybe if you’re Andy Warhol) without some sort of vision guiding the creation of the work. Whether the result lives up to that vision, though, is another matter, and while I did approach 1900 with the determination to see it through to the end, and lived up to that, I doubt I was really rewarded for my effort.

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