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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 Dalcò (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/communist; 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, and 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 311 minutes. The film's $6 million budget was supplied by three different sources: $2 million from United Artists, $2 million from Paramount and $2 million from Twentieth Century Fox. Even then, it went over-budget $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 311 minute version. Up until this time, it was, to the say the least, pretty damn difficult to see the full 311 minute version. Hopefully, with this the release, the film will finally start getting the love it deserves.
This film provides examples of:
- Aristocrats Are Evil
- Author Tract / Anvilicious: Fascism = bad. Socialism/communism = good. M'kay?
- Black Shirt: Attila is one of them.
- Dirty Communists: Completely inverted. The commies are very much the goodies in this film.
- Drowning My Sorrows: Ada.
- Epic Movie: An unusual (and sadly) rather obscure BFM.
- Fascist Italy: Errr, yah.
- Ho Yay: Olmo and Alfredo, big time. As boys, they examine each others' penises. As adults, when both are in bed with the same woman, one jokes about groping the other's penis.
- Large Ham: Attila.
- Male Frontal Nudity
- Odd Couple: Olmo and Alfredo.
- Olive Garden
- World War I
- World War II