Flawed But Great

Olive Films’ forthcoming Bluray of the 315-minute cut of Bernardo Bertolucci’s 1900 (called Novacento in Europe) is an absolute essential. It’s a sprawling big-canvas movie in spades, a Marxist-erotic epic with several colorful performances from a big international cast (Robert De Niro, Gerard Depardieu, Dominique Sanda, Donald Sutherland, Burt Lancaster, Sterling Hayden), and abundant with painterly passion and political feeling. It’s a helluva grand-scale history pageant.

1900 is too pedantic and lecture-y at the end (or so I’ve always felt), but Vittorio Storaro‘s cinematography includes several complex extended tracking shots delivering special heavenly highs, and it has a couple of very upfront sex scenes and an unforgettable presentation of Italy’s old-world class division scheme and the horrors of 1920s and ’30 Italian fascism (vividly represented by Sutherland’s Attila character, a demonic perv for the ages). Ennio Morricone‘s score is a rapture in itself.

The five-hour version is a bear, but those great scenes are necessary to have and hold.

I’ve never forgotten a scene depicting a high-class party in Rome, set in the 1920s or ’30s, in which a white horse named Cocaine — a birthday gift, as I recall — is led right into the middle of the main room. That’s Bertolucci’s sensualism for you, as well as the drug culture of the mid ’70s.

I remember interviewing Hayden in 1978 at the Plaza hotel, and his telling me about his death scene in 1900 and how he wrote his final line — “I’ve always loved the wind.” But I knew it from memory and repeated it before Hayden had a chance to, and I remember his delight and his patting my knee in appreciation.

Novacento streets on 5.15, or a little more than two weeks hence.

Jeffrey Kaufman‘s 4.28 Bluray.com review is a good read, but I was immediately brought down by the announcement that Olive, a respectable boutique outfit, is presenting 1900/Novacento with a 1.78 to 1 aspect ratio. Not only are there many sources and indications that the film was shot and presented at 1.66 to 1, but I saw 1900 at the N.Y. Film Festival in September 1976 and can all but conclusively state that it was projected at 1.66. So bad on Olive for bending to the fascists on this point.

Olive is bringing out a High Noon Bluray on 7.17.

  • C.C. Baxter

    Probably originally played theatrically at 1.66 in Europe and 1.85 in the U.S.

    All previous DVD releases (MGM in the U.K., Paramount in the U.S.) were 1.85. 1.78 certainly seems reasonable, though I would have probably slightly preferred the 1.66 framing myself.

    There are not, by the way, “many sources and indications” of the film being intended for 1.66 in the Google link you posted. There is precisely one: IMDb. The Amazon page incorrectly shows the Paramount DVD release as being 1.66, which it’s not. A couple of the hits in that Google link are actually about Picnic at Hanging Rock.

    Olive is not responsible for the aspect ratio choice at any rate. They were supplied with a high-def master at 1.78 by Paramount, who licensed the film to them.

  • Jeffrey Wells

    I watched it in Alice Tully Hall in September 1976, and I’m 98% certain it was screened at 1.66.

  • DiscoNap

    Can’t get past the cat thing. Will never watch this movie again.

  • DeafEars

    @DiscoNap I’m assuming you mean the “This is not a pussycat – this is a Communist!” scene? Apparently Sutherland really fucked his head up doing that stunt, if that’s any consolation.

    This’ll be fun to dig into, looking forward to it. Hope Bertolucci gets another turn at bat, although I’ve yet to see THE DREAMERS.

  • Movie Watcher

    I checked it out on Amazon and in the description it said the movie was subtitled.

  • Cadavra

    It’s supposed to have both the original English track and the dubbed Italian one. Bad news indeed if the former is not there.

  • Ira Parks


    I defy ANYONE here to tell me they saw this in the 80’s or 90’s before netflix. If you say this was on cable in the 80’s you are a LIAR. I don’t think I could’ve missed a 17 hour epic with De Niro wedged between HOW TO BEAT THE HIGH CO$T OF LIVING and LOOKER.


    [WELLS TO LEXG: The rest of this post has been canned for podiatric reasons, but suffice it to say Dominique Sanda is more woman than you can handle.]

  • Ira Parks


    Re: Lex’s slavish devotion to HBO, SHOWTIME, THE MOVIE CHANNEL, et al, during the 80’s: Some us used the UTNE READER to order vhs rentals by mail. Imagine that!

  • Ira Parks


    “Some us used” should be “Some of us used”

    I’m getting a pedicure and was distracted by the awful music in this place. The owner tells me the cd he’s playing is a new group out of Bed-Stuy.

  • lazarus

    DeafEars: Bertolucci actually has a film at Cannes this year. Sadly it’s not in competition.

    Can’t wait to see this peak-era Storaro on Blu-ray.

    And someone should mention the shot where De Niro and Depardieu are getting jerked off on camera full frontal by that prostitute. Which must rank just under the Brando “Get the butter” scene from Last Tango In Paris for sheer audacity and actor commitment.

  • Ira Parks


    Yeah, yeah, UTNE READER, never heard of it, will never read it.

    Glenn probably had Z CHANNEL, too. Thanks a MILLION Pennsylvania for not having an equivalent to it.

    The people that read UTNE READER probably have potato chip breath and wear fanny packs.

  • George Prager

    DeeZee1977 says…

    This bombed because people hadn’t forgiven De Niro for The Last Tycoon, Sutherland for S*P*Y*S*, Sanda for The Mackintosh Man, Depardeiu for Maitresse, Hayden for Loving and Lancaster for Executive Action.

    Speaking of disappointing box office, I have a feeling The Car is gonna kick Jabborwocky’s ass. The monster gimmick is tired, these clips aren’t doing it for me, and it’s based off a niche show which most people are too young to know or care about. *And* they still chose to keep it in the middle ages setting of the first movie, even though the target audience would not care about the middle ages. It’ll probably do better internationally than Logan’s Run, because of the Monty Python factor, but I don’t see it being a hit.

  • Ira Parks

    PRAGER: HA! What would the ’77 version of “stfu, D.Z.” be?

    “Shut your trap, you mother”?

  • George Prager

    Gaydos says…

    “I’ve been to the desert on a horse named cocaine, it felt good to get out of the rain…”

    I was reading James Wolcott’s splendid memoir of the 70s and he remembers walking out after they killed a cat. I have a stronger stomach than Wolcott, having endured a 3 hour Santana concert while on percodan (having just endured a last minute wisdom tooth extraction) that I washed down with a 64 ounce bottle of Little Kings. Of course I went home and passed out, waking up nearly 26 hours later having missed my History of the Gilded Age midterm.

  • Lonesome Rhodes

    I always felt like the movie is pretty terrible except for the considerable virtues of its cinematography, but that is one beautiful cover. I think I want

  • DiscoNap

    If anyone wants to be the enemy of everything we should stand for, this film is in fact on youtube in 31 parts.

  • Captain EO

    “Marxist-erotic” – never heard that one. Kinda sounds as disjointed as “Amish-techno”…

  • DeafEars

    Yes, in print “Marxist-erotic” doesn’t make much sense, but when you see Dominique Sanda it all comes together.

  • mutinyco

    This is all I have to say about that. http://mutinycompany.com/unimaginative/dueamici.jpg

  • The Thing

    Hey mutiny, thanks for the NSFW tag. It’s not like any of us check this site at work/class

    (Although I do concur)

  • EdHavens

    LexG’s tag line was “LOOK AT HER!”

    IraParks’ tag line seems to be “LOOK AT ME!”

    What a fucking joke.

    As for 1900, not only did I see the movies in the 1990s, I played it at my theatre in the mid 1990s, along with several other Bertolucci classics. I had seen and played The Last Emperor and Little Buddha previously, but never had the chance to see The Conformist or 1900 on the big screen until then. God bless arthouse theatres in the 1980s and 1990s.

  • Travis Actiontree

    Lighten up, EdHavens. Christ almighty a lot of y’all seem to have a large stick of lumber up your arses.

  • lazarus

    I saw what I believe was the full cut at the Brattle Theatre in Boston back in the late 90’s.

    That place had great programming but awful shoebox of a place.

    Mutiny: nice one.

  • Ira Parks

    HAVENS: Color me surprised that you don’t like Mr. Parks, because he routinely goes after Don Murphy, who I believe has been all over you in multiple thread fights over the years.

    “What a fucking joke” …………yeah, it is.

    Don’t forget you once discussed your own poop in the famous long showers thread. I wish I could. It was oddly funny, don’t get me wrong, but c’mon, glass houses and all that.

  • Simonster

    Not to nitpick, but it’s “novecento”, not “novacento”.

  • Definitely going to watch this!

  • Edward

    I’m fan of Bertolucci. The Conformist, Last Emperor, Stealing Beauty, Last Tango, great films. I saw the shorter version of 1900. Not my favorite, but loved a lot of it. The longer version has me drooling.

  • Tas Laptop

    I’m getting a pedicure and was distracted by the awful music in this place. The owner tells me the cd he’s playing is a new group out of Bed-Stuy.

  • back rib pain

    “many sources and indications” of the film being intended for 1.66 in the Google link you posted.

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