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1976 Minus One

- Abstract

BY COMMON consent, last year was the worst year for movies within recent memory-that is, unless one remembers the year before, and the year before that. Yet insofar as such impressions can be changed by the appearance of one single, overwhelming new film, I don’t think 1976 had to be so. For I did see one new film last year that seemed to me a stunning achievement. And though just when others will have a chance to see it remains, at this point, an open question, it seems to me nearly unthinkable that a work of such power will stay under wraps for very long.

The name of the film is Victory March, and its director is Marco Bellocchio, whose recent work seems to me more exciting than that of any other director younger than Godard. Bellocchio was born in 1939, a year before his most famous contemporary in the Italian film, Bernardo Bertolucci, and the two men’s careers offer a natural and interesting comparison. Though Bertolucci directed his first film (La Commare Secca) four years before Bellocchio made his, the film often taken to be Bertolucci’s first, Before the Revolution, precedes Bellocchio’s debut by only two years. Like Before the Revolution, Bellocchio’s 1966 Fists in the Pocket seems to have a high autobiographical component, in feeling if not in its fidelity to any actual events, though its claustrophobic depiction of a wealthy family’s brood of monsters-with epilepsy, intimations of incest, and murder thrown in for good measure-seemed also to owe something to Cocteau’s Les Enfants Terribles and, in its taste for the shockingly blasphemous gesture, to Bunuel.

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