(director/writer: Bernardo Bertolucci; screenwriters: Franco Arcalli/Giuseppe Bertolucci; cinematographer: Vittorio Storaro; editor: Enzo Ocone; music: Ennio Morricone; cast: Robert De Niro (Alfredo Berlinghieti, grandson), Gerard Depardieu (Olmo Dalco), Donald Sutherland (Attila), Burt Lancaster (Alfredo Berlinghieri, grandfather), Dominque Sanda (Ada), Sterling Hayden (Leo Dalco); Runtime: 255; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Alberto Grimaldi; Paramount; 1976-It./Fr./Ger.)
“A colossal bore.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Bernardo Bertolucci’s (“Last Tango in Paris”/”The Conformist”) glossy epic glorifying the communist party is a history of Italy from 1900 to 1945 as reflected through the friendship of two men from opposite classes. Alfredo (Robert De Niro) and Olmo (Gerard Depardieu) are born on the same day, but Alfredo is the grandson of a wealthy landowner Alfredo Berlinghieri (Burt Lancaster) destined to own the vineyard, while Olmo is the bastard born grandson of the patriarch of the peasants Leo Dalco (Sterling Hayden) destined to be behind the plow. The fate of the two boys are linked together throughout the film, but they grow apart due to circumstances; nevertheless, they try to remain friends as they were during childhood. The aristocrat De Niro is forced to protect his interests even though he tries to see the other side in a favorable light. But he’s goaded into action after WW1 by farm manager Atilla (Donald Sutherland), the local fascist, who pulls him along with the rest of the landowners to his Black Shirt policies of violence. De Niro’s worldly wife, Ada (Dominique Sanda), will educate him at least to be more enlightened than his other family members. Depardieu grows to be the angry proletariat leader who opposes the aristocrats and lays his hopes on socialism.
The film works backwards in telling it tale from Liberation Day in 1945 to the death in 1901 of composer/patriot Giuseppe Verdi. It’s set in the Italian town of Parma. Bertolucci’s history lesson covers–the fall of feudalism, the rise of fascism, and two world wars.
1900 is a colossal bore, too long, too ambitious, too heavy-going, too uneven, too banal and the pulp-like drama brings about too few scenes that aren’t weighed down by either details or abstractions for its more striking powerful scenes and its magnificent visual splendor and its heartfelt emotions to win the day.
REVIEWED ON 2/6/2004 GRADE: C+ https://dennisschwartzreviews.com/