Saturday, July 13, 2002


I came across this one at the library and the description made it sound interesting. It's directed by Bernardo Bertolucci, which is not necessarily a good sign for me; the only other movies by him I'd seen were 1900, which I liked, and LAST TANGO IN PARIS, which I did not. The plot was based loosely on a very short story by Borges, who I tend to like. A young man is called back to the Italian town where he grew up by his late father's mistress. His father has become a legendary figure in his hometown for his anti-Fascist activities in the 30's. He was murdered under mysterious circumstances; it's been assumed by the townspeople that Fascist forces were behind it. The mistress asks the son, who knew almost nothing about his father, to investigate the murder, 30 years after the fact. As the son talks to the townspeople (some of whom are not terribly willing to discuss the past) and reconstructs the events surrounding his father's death, it becomes clear that little is what it seems on the surface.

The actor who plays the son (Giulio Brogi) also plays the father, in flashbacks. The weird thing is that the other actors are not made to look younger in these flashback scenes, so there is always a bit of disorientation. You can usually tell what time period we're in because Brogi wears a brown jacket and a scarf when he's the father. But at least one scene deliberately distorts time, when the mistress seems to be talking to both the father and son at the same time. Metaphorically, the son is sort of becoming the father (and I think the mistress is trying to seduce the son) as he delves deeper into the mysteries of the past. The movies remains mostly realistic and the mystery is solved quite nicely, but the very last scene suddenly throws us off again, not in terms of the solution, but in terms of character and meaning, when metaphor seems to become reality. It's an ending that is certainly consistent with Borges. I liked it (the movie and the ending) a great deal, and a second viewing seems called for.

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