Before the Revolution

3 out of 5 stars

Time Out says

3 out of 5 stars
Written and directed at the tender age of 22, this impressive second feature from 1964 by Italian director Bernardo Bertolucci (now enjoying a retrospective at BFI Southbank) looks at political and romantic uncertainty among the youth of Parma. As the seeds of revolution germinate, Francesco Barilli’s young Fabrizio embarks on a period of intense contemplation regarding his commitment to the Communist Party and his desire to distance himself from bourgeois decadence. Soon to be wed to stunning and wealthy Clelia (Cristina Pariset) and reeling from a friend’s death, Fabrizio’s attentions are diverted towards his charismatic, troubled aunt, Gina (Adriana Asti, pictured). She confuses Fabrizio to the point where the lure of his entitlement is all the more enticing.

A leisurely, verbose and stylish film made by thinkers for thinkers, ‘Before the Revolution’ feels like it’s caught between two stools: it lacks the acute social observation found in Bertolucci’s stunning debut, ‘The Grim Reaper’ (1963), but it also fails to achieve the levels of free-flowing fizz displayed in his follow-up, ‘Partner’ (1968). He juggles with too many influences, to the point where the film feels like a compendium of nods and winks: we’ve seen these loping, well-heeled types in Antonioni’s films filling the void of social responsibility with art, religion and politics. We’ve seen snap-talking cinephiles touting Nicholas Ray’s use of a 360-degree pan in Godard. Still, that doesn’t detract from the virtuoso camerawork, Ennio Morricone’s rippling score and the melancholy reminder that for the young and politcally engaged, the ‘revolution’ is always just over the horizon.

By: David Jenkins



Release details

Release date:
Friday April 8 2011
112 mins

Cast and crew

Bernardo Bertolucci
Bernardo Bertolucci
Francesco Barilli
Adriana Asti
Allen Midgette
Morando Morandini
Domenico Alpi
Giuseppe Maghenzani
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