There's a tendency to critique the films of Bernardo Bertolucci with kid gloves because he's Italian, he made "Last Tango in Paris" and "The Last Emperor" and his name has a similar cadence to Michelangelo, which means that when you say the name "Bertolucci" to people attending films at suburban shopping malls they respond with statements like "He painted the Sistine Chapel" and "No thanks, I don't like Mexican food."
So it's good to remember that Bertolucci also made dogs like "The Sheltering Sky" and "Little Buddha." "Stealing Beauty," however, is something else altogether -- it's a skin flick; a muff film. It's the art house version of "Striptease." The plot, as it is, covers two parallel stories: Who will get into Lucy's (Liv Tyler) pants and who was responsible for getting into her mother's pants and conceiving her? It's the kind of movie that male Italian artists and intellectuals watch in a circle.
Bertolucci hides his role as dirty old man by setting the story in the Tuscany countryside and including lots of wide shots of grassy fields swaying slowly in the cool breeze and beautiful flowers covering the gentle hills as Lucy lines up Italian dudes like salamis to assess their potential as devirginizers.
"Stealing Beauty" proves to have all the depth of a puddle. Sure, seeing Liv Tyler naked isn't exactly hard on the eyes, but is it at all necessary? She must have wondered about Bertolucci's insistence on it. She probably had to come on the set everyday and greet Bernardo with a "Is that a cannoli in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?" I also bet she learned how to say "no butter" in Italian pretty fast.
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