“I want you to do it the way you did when you thought no one was watching.” The Dreamers
Where to begin with Bernardo Bertolucci? Sex (Last Tango in Paris)? Politics (Before the Revolution)? Controversy (Luna)? Aesthetics (Stealing Beauty)? But perhaps attempting to silo Bertolucci’s films is precisely the wrong place to start. These themes, and many others, tend to overlap in his films making him consistently, as Jesse Wente puts it in 180°, “uncannily himself.” There is no mistaking a Bertolucci film. His style is often as bold as his films’ content and equally unapologetic. The TIFF Lightbox retrospective, Fashion, Fascists and F**king: The Films of Bernardo Bertolucci, showcases this boldness, and unlike its title, uncensored as Bertolucci shot them.
With Bertolucci films, controversy tends to follow. Despite this, or perhaps because of it, since he debuted his first film (The Grim Reaper) at the age of 21 at the Venice Film Fest he has been recognized by nearly every award that directors aspire towards, including the Oscars (The Last Emperor), the BAFTAs, and the Palme d’Or (Stealing Beauty). But what is most striking about his films is not the hardware they have won but the volume of discussion that follows them. Feminist, Marxist and post-modern readings, or just simple jaw-dropping gasps, Bertolucci’s films instigate debate. Regardless of whether you like his films or not, this type of discussion is the core of cinema, and thus also of the Cinematheque. Bertolucci may film as if no one is watching, but this retrospective inspires you to talk to anyone who will listen. Just save it for after the screening, please.
Fashion, Fascists and F**king: The Films of Bernardo Bertolucci is currently running at the TIFF Bell Lightbox. For more information, visit tiff.net.
Kiva Reardon is a freelance film reviewer and blogger based in Toronto.