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Italy 1979
Directed by
Bernardo Bertolucci
142 minutes
Rated R

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
2.5 stars

Luna, La

Bernardo Bertolucci's La Luna, his last really provocative film, is a Pasolini-esque story of a recently-widowed American opera singer, Caterina (Jill Clayburgh), who has an incestuous relationship with her 15-year-old son, Joe (Matthew Barry), in order to help him overcome his heroin addiction. It is a film with discernible potential that is largely squandered by Bertolucci’s cack-handed helming.

Written by the director, his younger brother, Giuseppe, and Clare Peploe who had been a writer on Antonioni’s Zabriskie Point (1970) the core story of a mother trying to deal with her child’s self-destructiveness is a strong one but Bertolucci lards it with unnecessary distractions, such as extended scenes of Caterina performing opera, scenes which tend to have a parodic effect, particularly thanks to Clayburgh’s miming, or, as in the case of a young Roberto Begnini’s comedic appearance, completely ill-judged. One effect of this is simply to make the film too long whilst it perhaps also explains the rushed ending which makes, at best, borderline sense. 

Vittorio Storaro's photography of Rome locations is seductive and Clayburgh gives a strong performance as the  rather delusional mother dedicated as much, if not more, to her own career than to her son with Barry in his first feature film appearance (he was little heard of as an actor thereafter) quite effective but La Luna is a film that works only in parts and of those there are not enough.   




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