The Spider’s Stratagem Screen 5 articles

The Spider’s Stratagem

1970

The Spider’s Stratagem Poster
  • Bertolucci’s companion piece to The Conformist, pointedly analytical and lushly abstruse, like a vision dreamt by the discombobulated protagonist at the weed-covered railroad where the trains no longer run on time.

  • Bertolucci throws up his hands at the prospect of restoring the past in period costume terms, and by not making the slightest effort at flashback illusionism succeeds in making pastness itself seem problematical . . . Still, "The Spider's Strategem" is at least partly a game, and Bertolucci plays it through to the end in good faith and in good humor, and with sufficient s tyle to provide a semblance of unity to his conglomeration of confusions.

  • In this mystification there is exuberance; and a striking aspect of The Spider’s Stratagem is the sense of pleasure it gives in the act of film-making – pleasure in surprise, in the tricks of landscape (like the moment when the screen of an outdoor cinema is rolled up, to reveal the country setting), in the grand cinematic coup, such as the return to the town at dusk, with Rigoletto thundering from the loudspeakers and the empty streets now occupied by an al fresco audience.

  • The Spider’s Stratagem works first as a marvelous snare... The elliptical editing grows especially confusing when the flashbacks begin, as Giulio Brogi plays both Athos Magnanis, the better to confuse the past for the present. The hall of mirrors simultaneously disguises and betrays the truth that this is a story about optics.

  • The father’s actions influence the son’s – and, dare I say it, vice versa. In the hands of other directors, this might have dissolved into a Brechtian wank, an eat-your-vegetables dissolution of narrative suspense and viewer interest, but Bertolucci manages to make the story _more_ involving through his formal play. The film takes on a dream logic that pulls us in further. It helps, also, that the movie is visually ravishing.

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