The 57th BFI London Film Festival: Bertolucci on Bertolucci

Cinema is the mirror of the world” Bertolucci once said. And it sure is in the Italian director’s eyes. Born in 1940, son of the critically acclaimed poet Attilio Bertolucci, he entered adulthood in the 60s. In 1968, he was 27 years old and, according to him, that time was a great experience for him as he mingled with politics, youth rebellion, desire for freedom, sex, music, art and above all his greatest love – cinema. Apart from being a maestro filmmaker, Bertolucci is also a successful poet who at the age of 21 received the prestigious Literature Award Premio Vereggio for his poetry entitled In Cerca del Mistero. His life has been an inspiration to many 21st century filmmakers, and that’s why, a fellow Italian director, Luca Guadagnino, director of Melissa P, decided to come up with an amazing film about Bertolucci.

Bertolucci on Bertolucci is an inside look into Bertolucci’s life as a filmmaker and scriptwriter. The film contains over 120 minutes of mixed interviews conduced by European and American journalists, some dating back to the 1960s and some filmed in present day. It is an unforgettable portrait of the Italian director, who talks about “the state of Italian and European cinema and filmmaking”. He takes us on a journey through his childhood, his memories of his father and mother and their influence on his career as a director. We learn more about his great passion for filmmaking, his likes and dislikes. What drew my attention was his opinion on film characters. According to Bertolucci it is paramount to analyze the nature of them. You have to know them from the inside out. He always thought that his cameras had an additional lens called the Freudian Lens.

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His attitudes towards his previous work are worth admiring “filmamking is a journey, we shouldn’t be ashamed of what we have done in the past, we just have to move forward”, he simply says don’t cry over spilled milk, if your previous films were bad just try to make a better one next time. It is noticeable that Bernardo Bertolucci is a very strong minded, articulate individual, whose philosophical opinions on cinema and filmmaking are easily absorbed by the audience. I was glued to the screen when Bertolucci talked about The Last Tango in Paris (1972), a film about an improbable and anonymous sexual liaison between an American widower ( Marlon Brando) and a nameless young French woman (Maria Schneide), what was behind the project and his inspiration for it, which was taken from the work of Francis Bacon. Bertolucci said that he regularly visited a show of the artist’s paintings while filming The Last Tango in Paris. His stories about The Last Emperor (1987), for which he received 9 Oscars, and Little Buddha (1993) were surprisingly engaging. In one of the interviews a journalist asked the director “how about the dubbing“. Bertolucci’s answer was short and simple “with dubbing you cannot understand the full meaning of cinema“. I couldn’t have agreed more on the subject. Who wants to listen to Brad Pitt speaking Italian or German? Definitely not me.


Bertolucco on Bertolucci is a remarkable picture of the most prominent, in my opinion, European directors. I must say that Luca chose interesting interviews to use, sometimes they were chaotically edited, but they still drew the audience’s attention. I would definitely recommend the film to anyone who is passionate about Italian and European cinema.

There is no official Bertolucci on Bertolucci trailer yet, however, take a look at the director’s latest movie trailer Me and You.

Written by Maggie Gogler

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