Director: Bernardo Bertolucci
Year Released: 1977
Bertolucci's five-hour 'epic' is by far the longest picture the director has made to date, though it is hardly his most important (off-hand, The Conformist, The Last Emperor and Last Tango in Paris are all unquestionably more developed). Whenever anyone strives to make something this expansive and detailed - perhaps too detailed - problems are inherent, and the story will no doubt lag in parts. But for all the lags - and there are many - there aren't any real bravura moments to compensate (or any palatable sense of exuberance - Vittorio Storaro's cinematography, at least, is consistently breathtaking). The obsessions with sex in the first part and heavy-handed symbolism in the second are both rather shallow, and the screenplay makes everyone's political roles very obvious (the Fascists are evil, the workers good - for the former to prove their wickedness, their cackling ringleader, Donald Sutherland, head butts a cat to death and smashes a child's head open while playing 'helicopter'). Unrewarding even after all the time spent with these people (Robert De Niro and Gerard Depardieu, the leads, are not the fascinating characters you'd hope them to be); seems like a test run for the equally lengthy but profound Once Upon a Time in America, which would come a few years later.