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Stealing Beauty (1996)

Cast: Liv Tyler, Liv Tyler, Sinéad Cusack, more...
Director: Bernardo Bertolucci, Bernardo Bertolucci
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Studio: 20th Century Fox
Genre: Drama, Foreign, Romance, British Drama, Coming of Age , UK
Running Time: 119 min.
Languages: English, French
Subtitles: English, Spanish
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This beautiful if ponderous soufflé of a film from director Bernardo Bertolucci serves more as an Italian travelogue than a drama. Liv Tyler stars as Lucy Harmon, an American teenager arriving in the lush Tuscan countryside to visit family friends residing there. Lucy visited four years earlier and exchanged a kiss with a handsome boy with whom she hopes to become reacquainted. Lucy's mother has committed suicide since then, and the teenager also hopes to discover the identity of her father, whom her mother hinted was a resident of the villa. Once she arrives, Lucy meets a variety of eccentric visitors, including a dying gay playwright (Jeremy Irons), a sculptor (Donal McCann), an entertainment lawyer (D.W. Moffet), and several others. Lucy has decided to lose her virginity and becomes an object of intense interest to the men of the household, but the suitor she finally selects is not the initial object of her affection. Stealing Beauty boasted an intriguing parallel between actress Tyler's role and her real life. The daughter of a famed rock and roll star, she was brought up believing that her father was someone else, a fact that Bertolucci may have had in mind when writing the story. ~ Karl Williams, All Movie Guide

GreenCine Member Reviews

A truly exceptional film by mkaliher2 February 20, 2011 - 2:32 AM PST
1 out of 1 members found this review helpful
Why this film has received such a low rating on GC is beyond me. It has to be one of the best films I've ever seen -- and certainly represents twenty-first century storytelling at its very best. I've seen it dozens of times, and it never fails to move me.

Jeremy Irons's performance as Alex, an old family friend who is savoring his last days in their artists' enclave in Tuscany, and his interaction with Liv Tyler's character, Lucy, a young woman distressed by love (or fantasies of love) and yearning, is quite remarkable. They both deliver the best performances I've seen either of them give, and it's due to the superb direction of Bernardo Bertolucci.

I know we Americans like to think directors like Steven Spielberg and George Lucas are accomplished. But they're mere hacks in comparison with Bertolucci. If you don't believe me, watch this film and truly listen to the narrative. It's amazing.

Toward the end of the film, Lucy looks out her apartment window and has a revelation when she finally notices a statue of a Madonna and child. She immediately goes to the sculptor Ian's studio with her newly-discovered intuition. After some equivocation on the subtext of Lucy's paternity, Ian agrees to let Lucy have a look at his statue of her, saying, "If I show it to you now, it must be our secret. . . You can keep a secret, can't you?" And Lucy responds, "Yes. I learned from a master."

This line, and many others equally powerful, are what separates master storytellers like Bertolucci and his co-writer Susan Minot from others. A propagandist can make a lap dog cry; a storyteller invites the viewer to experience what the protagonists are feeling. There is a difference.

Beautiful Piece of Crap by malvolio February 24, 2004 - 10:39 AM PST
2 out of 6 members found this review helpful
I can't recommend this film. It is beautifully posed and shot but nothing really happens. Great atmospherics but the staging is so obvious that it calls attention to itself. I sat there with my finger on the eject button hoping something would happen.
Liv Tyler is nice looking but inert you wonder if anybody would se her if she wasn't born into it. Jeremy Irons is the only reason that you would want to watch this.

GreenCine Member Rating

(Average 5.85)
92 Votes
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