Stealing Beauty

After years of filming abroad, Bernardo Bertolucci returned to Italyusing English dialogue primarilyto fashion a civilized, mellow, and generally graceful chamber piece (1996), literary in a good sense (and written by novelist Susan Minot), about a young American (Liv Tyler), the daughter of a deceased woman poet, 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 cinematographers from standby Vittorio Storaro to Darius Khondji (Seven), Bertolucci seems less rhetorical and more assured than usual. Though the film tapers off a little toward the end, there’s a climactic scene of recognition between the heroine and her father that was one of the most exquisite pieces of acting I’d seen in ages. With Carlo Cecchi, Sinead Cusack, Jeremy Irons, Jean Marais, Donal McCann, D.W. Moffett, Stefania Sandrelli, and Rachel Weisz. 119 min. (JR)

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