After 15 years of filming abroad, Bernardo Bertolucci returns to Italy–albeit principally with English dialogue–to fashion a civilized, mellow, and generally graceful chamber piece that’s literary in a good sense. Written by novelist Susan Minot, this film tells the story of a young American (Liv Tyler), the daughter of a deceased poetess, who returns to a villa occupied by family friends in Tuscany hoping to lose her virginity and discover the identity of her father–two concerns the film regards as intimately intertwined. Switching from his usual standby cinematographer, Vittorio Storaro, to Darius Khondji (Seven), Bertolucci seems less rhetorical and more assured than usual; though this is a far cry from the rapturous lyricism of Before the Revolution, he seems to be working his way back toward the warmth of that picture, perhaps because for a change he’s dealing with a milieu he understands well. Though the film tapers off toward the end, the climactic scene of recognition between the heroine and her father is one of the most exquisite pieces of acting I’ve seen in ages. With Carlo Cecchi, Sinead Cusack, Jeremy Irons, Jean Marais, Donal McCann, D.W. Moffett, Stefania Sandrelli, and Rachel Weisz. Fine Arts, Evanston. –Jonathan Rosenbaum
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Still.