Before the Revolution (1964)

Genres - Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Political Drama, Psychological Drama  |   Run Time - 112 min.  |   Countries - Italy   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Review by Tom Wiener

An enormously influential film on both the zeitgeist of late-'60s leftist politics and the work of such filmmakers as Martin Scorsese, Bernardo Bertolucci's second feature is a rich amalgam of forbidden sex, youthful idealism, and even discussions of the cinematic styles of Nicholas Ray, Roberto Rossellini, and Jean-Luc Godard. It's also a loose adaptation of Stendhal's The Charterhouse of Parma; Fabrizio (Francesco Barilli) is the 1960s bourgeois youth who falls under the spell of his wayward aunt Gina (Adriana Asti). There's also a subtle critique of Catholicism here; their romance commences in the waning days of Lent, with consummation taking place the night before Easter. Fabrizio is the kind of young man who urges a buddy to join the communist party because if "you make a mistake, your errors have a certain sense," and in the next breath, he is urging the same pal to "go and see Red River -- don't miss it!" Fabrizio is simply yearning for some kind of authenticity, which the affair with his aunt grants him, if temporarily. For her part, Gina is weary from a string of affairs with married men; as she notes to Fabrizio, "You aren't a man yet," which gives her the kind of sexual freedom that Bertolucci would later explore in his most notorious work, Last Tango in Paris. In the end, Fabrizio understands his inability to follow through on his political ideals when he admits, "It's always 'before the revolution' when you're like me." Though Bertolucci sees Fabrizio playing at rebellion, many youthful idealists took up Fabrizio's pushing the party to go beyond its modest agenda of workers' rights as a critique of the Old Left's irrelevancy.