The Spider's Stratagem

“Made in 1969, before The Conformist and Last Tango in Paris, writer-director Bernardo Bertolucci's The Spider's Stratagem is engrossing, suspenseful and stunningly sensuous. Freely based on a short-short story by Jorge Luis Borges, Stratagem demonstrates Bertolucci's debt to his brilliant cinematographer Vittorio Storaro. Visually, the movie projects breathtaking beauty as well as a mood of timeless mystery in a sunny, somnolent Italian village where a young man arrives to investigate the murder of his father - a local anti-Fascist hero assassinated some 30 years before in a box at the opera house during a performance of ‘Rigoletto.' The son (Giulio Brogi) discovers a monument in the piazza dedicated to his father, yet the townspeople greet him with suspicion and hostility. His encounters with three anti-Fascist colleagues and his father's former mistress (pungently played by the onetime screen siren Alida Valli) are the stuff from which Stratagem spins an offbeat political thriller - told mostly through flashbacks in which the son learns that his father was not a hero but a penitent traitor who contrived his own death in order to give the anti-Fascist cause a martyr. What began as a search for truth evolves into a philosophical study of consequences. Bertolucci's convoluted tale is rich in texture and characteristically provocative....”

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