I and You (2012): Bertolucci’s Tale of Turbulent Youth

Bernardo Bertolucci’s first film since The Dreamers, in 2003, I and You (aka Me and You) takes the vet Italian director (who’s 72) back to the issue of turbulent youth and its inevitable conflict with the surrounding bourgeois society and middle-class morality.

It’s with great regret that I have to report that Bertolucci’s new film is a slight, rather simple tale that gives the impression of deja vu.

Shown out of competition at the 2012 Cannes Film Fest, “I and You” centers on the relationship between a young man and an older woman, who are forced to share a small, cramped basement.

Lorenzo (Jacopo Olmo Antinori), a disturbed adolescent, hates school and any form of authority. His mother Arianna (Sonia Bergamasco) sends him to a psychotherapist (played by the director in a wheelchair).

Mother and son lunch together at restaurants, where Lorenzo speculates, inappropriately, as to whether other people think they are a couple He asks her what they should do to repopulate the Earth if they were the only two people left after an apocalyptic catastrophe. Sonia is relieved, when Lorenzo expresses interest in going on a week’s skiing trip organized by his school.

Instead of getting on the bus, however, Lorenzo sneaks back to the house and hides out in its basement to which he has separate keys. But he is horrified when his twentysomething half-sister, Olivia (Tea Falco) shows up, needing a place to stay. Falco’s Olivia both fascinates and horrifies Lorenzo with her personal problems, drug addictions, artistic aspirations, and dark hints about her (and Lorenzo’s) father.

Bertolucci and his actors, Antinori and Falco, are effective in depicting the growing bond that develops between the pair, which is hard to define. They are not intimate siblings, not friends, and not lovers, though Bertolucci suggests some emotional and erotic tension between them.

There is a nice scene, when Olivia starts singing along to David Bowie’s rewritten Italian version of Space Oddity, “Ragazzo Solo, Ragazza Sola” (“Lonely Boy, Lonely Girl”).

A skillful craftsman, Bertolucci is elegant with the camera and there are elegant tracking shots that give some visual pleasure. But to what effect?

As Bertolucci’s first Italian-speaking film in three decades, “Me and You” is a companion piece to two other intimate pieces, based on a small number of characters, locked in hermetic milieu, isolated from the outside, antagonistic world: “Besieged” and “The Dreamers.”
Indeed, ultimately, the film is too claustrophobic, too old-fashioned, a minor work from a major director, who has not made a good picture in man years.

I doubt if this film would be theatrically released in the U.S., and I hope that Bertolucci would choose a worthier subject for his next feature and that we will not have to wait a whole decade for it.