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Film: Novecento

1900 (Italian: Novecento) is Bernardo Bertolucci's Magnum Opus.

On the same day and practically at the same moment, on a wealthy pastoral estate in turn-of-the-century Italy, January 27, 1901; two boys are born. Alfredo Berlinghieri (Robert De Niro) is the grandson of the estate's padrone (patriarch). Olmo Dalcň (Gérard Depardieu) is the bastard grandson of the estate's head labourer. As children, the two develop an unlikely but close friendship. As they grow up together, Olmo becomes a socialist; however it is Fascism that manages to gain a foothold in the country. Alfredo does not, in turn, strictly become a fascist himself. In fact, he is somewhat distasteful of the ideology and adherents of it, such as his father. Nevertheless, over the years the friendship of the two men, representing the Italian lower and upper classes respectively, is tested; as the country undergoes both World Wars, as Alfredo's father hires the sadistic, anti-communist Attila Mellanchini (Donald Sutherland) as his foreman as the film charts 45 years of Italian history.

Boy oh boy, what a movie this is. It runs, in its entire, uncut form; a whopping 317 minutes. The film's $6 million budget was supplied by three different sources: $2 million from United Artists, Paramount and 20th Century Fox. Even then, it went over-budget by 3 million dollars. Its cast is comprised of Burt Lancaster, Sterling Hayden, Robert De Niro, Donald Sutherland, Gerard Depardieu and Dominque Sanda. It's scored by Ennio Morricone. Over 12,000 extras were employed. Truly, an Epic Movie if there ever was one.

Alas; a combinition of its five hour running time, some explicit violent and sexual scenes (several of which involve prepubescent children) and a pro-communist message pretty much doomed the film's commercial viability. Not only that, but Alberto Grimaldi, the film's producer, was contractually obligated to deliver a 195-minute version to Paramount Pictures. Bertolucci originally wanted to release the film in two parts, but Grimaldi refused. He locked Bertolucci out of the editing room and edited it himself. Bertolucci, horrified at Grimaldi's cut, decided to compromise, and made a 255-minute version of his own. It was this cut that received initial international release. And said release was a relatively limited arthouse one. This combination of factors means that, despite all the assets described above, very few people have heard of this film, let alone seen it. In 2006 a DVD was released, containing the full 317 minute version.

This film provides examples of:


Nights of CabiriaItalian FilmsOpera
The Night of the HunterCreator/United ArtistsOf Mice and Men
    Epic Movie1941
The YakuzaFilms of the 1970sAllegro Non Troppo

alternative title(s): Novecento
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