Capital Celluloid - Day 106: Sunday Apr 17, 2011

The Spider's Stratagem (Bertolucci, 1970): BFI Southbank, 6.15pm NFT1

This is film-making of the highest order. Even though other movies in Bernardo Bertolucci's oeuvre have a higher reputation, specifically The Conformist which covers similar themes and issues, it is arguable whether the Italian director has made a better film.

The Spider's Stratagem is based on a Jorge Luis Borges short story and tells the tale of a man who returns to the town of Tara, specifically named by Bertolucci with reference to Gone With The Wind, to honour his Resistance hero father but discovers secrets which leaves him questioning everything he has previously been told.

The visual composition, which has echoes of Magritte paintings in part, is extraordinary and crucially this is one time when the substance matches the breathtaking style, lending a depth and resonance to the story that leaves the viewer gasping. I am not sure I will see a better film this year, and this highlight of the BFI Southbank Bertolucci season comes highly recommended.

This is one cinematic highlight you will probably need to go and see on the big screen as as I cannot find anything on YouTube and this film was only available on video at the legendary Film Shop in Stoke Newington.

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