Saw Bernardo Bertolucci talk at the BFI last night. He was on good form. He was cheerful and gentle but gave his interviewer a little slap at the beginning just to let everyone know who was boss. He flattered and coped with the different egos in the room at question time, and told some very funny stories. The funniest was about Godard, natch, giving his producer an actual slap onstage at a premiere of One Plus One and then demanding that the audience return their tickets and forward the refund to the Black Panthers (nobody moved). Bertolucci also talked about filming Brando Last Tango In Paris (he never knew when Brando was making things up or quoting from memory) and working with Sergio Leone on the script for Once Upon a Time in the West. (In his interview for the script job Bertolucci told Leone how he admired the way the director filmed the horses' buttocks, like John Ford.) He talked a lot about the power and influence of movies in the 1960s and wondered if today's young audiences found films as "menacing."
Bertolucci said he loved "contamination", by which he meant the way reality intrudes on the process of filmmaking no matter how carefully it was planned. He said he always "leaves a door open" on the set for change to happen; at the same time, one of the filmmakers he admired was Kubrick "who built a wall across where the door was" and tried to control everything. Bertolucci also said he loved the digital revolution: the speed and ease of modern filmmaking and the "very acid colours" which digital processes could bring to film. The final clip of the night, the bal-musette scene from the restored print of The Conformist, possessed a brilliance I didn't recall: bright blue windows, bright red trim, golden floor. Dominique Sanda and Stefania Sandrelli remained the colour of milk.