Film Watched Bernardo Bertolucci's Stealing Beauty last night for the first time since its release and I'd forgotten how shocking that moment is. It's not the first time nudity has appeared anywhere and there have certainly been more gratuitous examples, but I think it's the matter of fact way the blouse is removed to the reveal Liv Tyler's breast. Unfortunately this was the second time I'd seen it (the film) without an audience (the other time at the Odeon in '96 was myself and a very creepy old man) but I remember reading at the time that there had been gasps during preview and review screenings, as though a woman had suddenly appeared on screen from from thin air. Liv then sits there for a good five minutes while the artist (spoiler) who eventually turns out to possibly be her father (in Darth Vader sense of the word) draws her and two local boys sit around commenting on what they see.

Here is what I wrote about the film to a pen pal all those years ago (please feel free to throw rocks at my writing style):
"Stealing Beauty - no complaints - see this film. It one of those movies you can watch over and over, like you're visiting friends every so often. Liv Tyler is a babe (which I know is overtly sexist, but sue me) and as this incredible emotional intensity. There seems to be a few of these new actresses around at the moment - like Claire Danes, for example, who somehow have this ability to convince the viewer that they are feeling every word and experiencing what their characters are going through with every pore in their body, in a way that few actresses do - they make Julia Roberts and Demi Moore. You know, the camera does not leave Liv for much of the movie, but you don't care, because she is a pleasure to watch. Oh and every shot could be printed and hung on a wall as art. (PS - doesn't Liv Tyler look scarcely like Alanis Morissette?!?)
Well she did then. I think. Erm ...

Depending on your film tastes it also has an extraordinary cast. As well as Rachel Weisz (who you'll remember I've been noticing a lot lately in The Shape of Things) playing the daughter in this ex-pat enclave which is million miles from Eldorado, we find Jason Flemyng (a couple of years before Paul Bettany stole his career), Joseph Fiennes (playing Will Shakespeare as he always does only this time with blonde hair) and Jeremy Irons in yet another part which he nails and embues with a kind of pathos which only he can do.

The film isn't for everyone. There isn't much of a plot to speak of other than a girl coming to terms with her sexuality amid her Bohemian relatives in the picturesque setting of Tuscany (thanks to Darius Khondji for knowing were to point a camera). Everything really exciting happens in the last couple of scenes; the rest of the time is spent taking the audience's emotions on holiday, suggesting they let this oasis of near perfection washing over them.

It's just a pity Bertolucci's new film The Dreamers looks like a remake of Andrew Fleming's Threesome set in a period with a political edge. But I suspect I'm the only person thinking that so we'll move on.

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