Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Bertolucci's Seductive Little Gem: Beautiful Defines It

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Bertolucci's Seductive Little Gem: Beautiful Defines It

Article excerpt


Rating: R, nudity, sexual themes, mild drug use, language. Running time: 1:59.

THE lush landscape of the rolling hills outside of Siena, Italy, is the setting for a villa where a colony of artists and writers luxuriate.

They drink bottles of wine, smoke lots of pot and sunbathe in the nude, all the while looking incredibly beautiful. Even Alex Parrish (Jeremy Irons), a visiting playwright, looks gorgeous, though he is weak, balding and dying from cancer.

The setting, the intoxicating people and the camera that caresses every inch of it all make "Stealing Beauty" incredibly seductive. Revel in the rich cinematography by Darius Khondji (in a total departure from his style in "Seven") and ignore the wobbly story line, the simple premise and the juvenile romanticism. They aren't critical to the film anyway, which is more pictoral essay than challenging plot.

The film is a departure in many ways, too, for director Bernardo Bertolucci, known for sweeping epics ("1900" and his Eastern Trilogy - "The Last Emperor," "The Sheltering Sky" and "Little Buddha"), for leftist political treatises ("The Conformist") and for getting the best performance ever out of Marlon Brando ("Last Tango in Paris").

What Bertolucci has not been known for is simple storytelling, which is what he gives us in "Stealing Beauty." It is a small treasure of a film and in ways reminded me of the 1971 Louis Malle film, "Murmur of the Heart," an endearing story about incest, if that description isn't an oxymoron.

It is a story about Lucy (Liv Tyler), the 19-year-old American daughter of a recently dead poet, Sarah Harmon. Sarah had often visited the villa, and a journal she left details a dalliance nearly 20 years earlier in the Tuscan hills. Lucy suspects she was conceived during the affair and wants to find out if her father is one of the men at the villa. …

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