Sunday, 7 April 2013


If Bernardo Bertolucci's canon can be separated into projects which interested him and projects which impassioned him, Me and You occupies a position in the latter category. It's not a particularly passionate work of his, but it does disclose a respect for his subjects, two half-siblings, whose not-especially remarkable lives are tenderly presented, and altered, over the course of one week in a basement, almost completely alone. No political text nor subtext, no graphic sex and nudity, no China! Just two rather different but distinct young people, whose era may not be that of Bertolucci's prime, but whose concerns are readily understood by the sympathetic director. The '70s soundtrack, sparingly used, is perhaps the most plain indication of where we stand, as is the inventive but sensitive cinematography, but Bertolucci's mark radiates from within these characters' hearts and minds, despite the fact that Me and You is not an original screenplay, but an adaptation. Noisy, callous Olivia intrudes upon introverted Lorenzo, her younger half-brother whom she has not seen for years, as he camps out in the basement of his apartment building, seeking respite from a world that may make some effort to consider him, but on its own terms, not his. This is a tough lesson for a teenager, one which Lorenzo is better at coming to terms with in solitude, he thinks, and away from the smothering endeavours of his mother. She thinks he's on a school ski trip. Olivia is a disturbing presence at first but Lorenzo grows to accommodate her, initially out of sympathy, eventually out of love. He learns something from her, too, perhaps identifying their similarities - both feel abandoned by their parents and rejected by society, even though Lorenzo's situation appears much cushier than Olivia's. Bertolucci is more measured in approaching this story than he normally might be, and seems at ease with its slightness, bordering on dramatic aridity at times, and thereby enables the strongest analysis of his film's characters for many years.