'1900' should have been discarded, not restored

April 05, 1991|By Lou Cedrone | Lou Cedrone,Evening Sun Staff

Paramount and Bernardo Bertolucci should have left bad enough alone. Paramount has restored Bertoloucci's 1975 ''1900'' to its original length, five hours and 10 minutes.

When it was first shown here in 1977, the film was four hours long, three hours longer than it needed to be. Restoring that cut footage only makes matters worse.

''1900'' is Bertolucci's epic telling of the more recent history of Italy. The film begins in 1900 and ends about 70 years later. The locale is Emilia, a northern province, and when the film begins, two boys have been born, one to a landowner and the other to a peasant family that helps work the land.

The two boys become friends, but the relationship is not always smooth. Much of the time, they fight. When World War I begins, Olmo, the peasant boy, goes to war. Alfredo, son of the landowner, manages to avoid combat. When both return home, Olmo is a Marxist activist, while Alfredo continues to represent those who rule the land.

All this is played out against a political panorama that includes socialism, communism and fascism. Fascism, as represented by Mussolini, is the real enemy in this film.

Excessive may be the best way to describe it. The film is sometimes scenically handsome, but everything else about it is overdone, the sex, the nudity, the crowd scenes and the dialogue, which, at times, is horrendously bad. It is not helped by the fact that the film has been badly, terribly dubbed.

Add to this some very bad performances by Burt Lancaster as the padrone, Sterling Hayden as the peasant patriarch and Donald Sutherland as the fascist overseer. Robert De Niro plays Alfredo. This cannot be regarded as one of his better performances. Gerard Depardieu is his friend, Olmo, and he does a bit better. The actor who dubbed for him did well by him. De Niro speaks for himself. So do Lancaster and Hayden, but most of the others are dubbed.

Among the excesses in the film are the detailed slaughter of a pig, a scene in which Sutherland rams a cat with his head, killing the animal, and another scene in which he murders a young boy by battering the child against a wall.

''1900'' was apparently intended as a tribute to Marxism. It certainly plays that way.

3' ''1900'' is showing at the Charles.

''1900''

* The history of Italy, 1900 to 1945, as it affected two families, one wealthy, one not

CAST: Robert De Niro, Gerard Depardieu, Dominique Sanda, Donald Sutherland, Burt Lancaster, Sterling Hayde, Alida Valli

DIRECTOR: Bernardo Bertolucci

RATING: NC-17

RUNNING TIME: Five hours and 10 minutes

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