Bernardo Bertolucci’s sensual made-for-TV feature (1998), with dialogue in English, focuses on the attraction of a wealthy English pianist in Rome (David Thewlis) to his African housekeeper (Thandie Newton), a medical student whose husband is a political prisoner. As a story this is relatively slight for Bertolucci, and is carried mainly by the actors; and as an allegory about colonialism and guilt-ridden privilege it verges on the routine. But as stylistic expressiona mosaic of images and singular editing patternsit’s the most interesting thing he’s done in years, as well as the most pleasurable. It’s a story told mainly through images and music (ranging from African pop and McCoy Tyner to Mozart and Grieg)with dialogue kept to a minimum and looks and gestures exploited to the fullestand as a re-creation of silent cinema it’s much more achieved than The Thin Red Line, its only contemporary rival. R, 94 min. (JR)

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