The opening night of our 2020 program features recent restorations of key works by two of the towering figures of post-World War II European cinema: Bernardo Bertolucci and Jacques Rivette.
Both filmmakers emerged as key figures in the 1960s, each betraying and confirming their strong affinity with the history of cinema and other art forms. This program profiles two of their less widely seen but central works from this seminal period, opening with Bertolucci’s appropriately labyrinthine and mercurial adaptation of a short story by Jorge Luis Borges.
Released within months of The Conformist, The Spider’s Stratagem demonstrates both the full range of Bertolucci’s work and his characteristic preoccupation with the legacies of history, place and identity. The exquisite recent restoration of Rivette’s La religieuse profiles an extraordinary central performance by Anna Karina, while also highlighting the Melbourne Cinémathèque’s overriding goal of profiling challenging works of film history in optimal conditions.
6:30pm – THE SPIDER’S STRATAGEM
Bernardo Bertolucci (1970) 100 mins – Unclassified 15 +
The son of a martyred anti-fascist hero travels to a small Italian village searching for the truth behind his father’s death, only to unravel a web of myths, mysteries and lies. In this intimate, mesmeric film based on a short story by Jorge Luis Borges and exquisitely shot in vibrant shades by Franco Di Giacomo and Vittorio Storaro, Bertolucci’s delicately elusive and deftly non-linear style grapples with themes of historical legacy, cultural inheritance and the intersection of sex, violence and ideology. With Alida Valli. 35mm print courtesy of Cinecittà Luce.
8:25pm – LA RELIGIEUSE
Jacques Rivette (1966) 140 mins – Unclassified 15 +
Rivette’s bold second feature is a controversial adaptation of Denis Diderot’s late 18th-century novel detailing the virtual incarceration of a young woman forced to enter a convent. Initially condemned by the Catholic church, partly for its critical and honest portrayal of various high officials, Rivette’s characteristically precise, formally adventurous, devastatingly affective and physically palpable portrait of the sad fate of Suzanne Simonin (in an extraordinary incarnation by Anna Karina) is also “one of the greatest prison movies ever made” (Justin Chang).