Political Struggle in a Time of Polarization
One of the great political films is the 1976 epic 1900 from the Italian master Bernardo Bertolucci. The current cut on DVD is five hours and 20 minutes long, which provoked a friend of mine to say, “That’s not a movie; that’s a relationship.” I’ve watched it three times, the first time in 1976, when Bertolucci released a four hour version in the United States. It did very well in Europe, but not in the US. Bertolucci said that was because “there are too many red flags in it.” He means too many angry peasants waving communist red flags accompanied by the International. 1900 followed his controversial Last Tango In Paris. It was the height of the Cold War, and he wanted to make a historical film that mixed up the creative spirits of great Russian masters like Eisenstein and great American masters like John Ford. The conceit of the movie is that on the same day -- January 1st 1900 -- grandsons are born to an Italian estate's patron (Burt Lancaster) and to the estate's chief peasant (Sterling Hayden). These infants eventually turn into Robert DeNiro and Gerard Depardieu. After 320 minutes of Italian history, they appear in a final scene as eternally squabbling right/left contemporaries at age 76.