Review: Marx Can Wait
- CANNES 2021: Set to receive the honorary Palme D’Or, Marco Bellocchio offers up a documentary about his twin brother’s tragic death, which inspired many of his films
When it comes to Marco Bellocchio, who is now 81 years of age, his own life and the themes of family (an institution which the master from Bobbio has always ferociously contested) and death have always enjoyed an overwhelming presence in his movies. His latest documentary Marx Can Wait [+see also:
film profile] might be described as the cornerstone for understanding his films. As he recounts the death of his twin brother Camillo, who took his own life at just 29 years of age in December of 1968, inspiring great anguish and feelings of guilt in the director, Bellocchio seeks to provide his audience with the final puzzle piece driving his creative process.
Due for release in Italian cinemas on 15 July via 01 Distribution, the director presented the film in the festival’s new Cannes Première section today, 16 July, and he is set to receive the Honorary Palme D’Or during tomorrow’s closing ceremony. As explained by the president of the Cannes Film Festival Pierre Lescure, Bellocchio “has always challenged institutions, traditions and personal and collective history. In each of his works, almost unwittingly or, at the very least, in the most natural manner possible, he revolutionises the established order”. In Marx Can Wait, the director conducts a veritable investigation within the confines of his own family, interviewing his surviving siblings Letizia, Pier Giorgio, Maria Luisa and Alberto in order to unearth the reasons behind Camillo’s death, but also laying bare weaknesses and hypocrisies.
Narrated by the director’s off-camera voice, the documentary combines footage filmed during a get-together in Piacenza on the occasion of various birthdays with archive images, personal archive material, including home movies shot with Super 8 and featuring Camillo Bellocchio himself, and scenes taken from his films, such as Fists in the Pocket, A Leap in the Dark, The Eyes, The Mouth, My Mother's Smile [+see also:
film profile]. We clearly see how Bellocchio has tackled the themes of madness, suicide, religiousness and parent-child relationships, over the years, by tapping into personal family events.
There emerges from this little film, which is as personal as humanly possible, the portrait of Camillo, a twin who almost died of asphyxiation upon his birth and who grew up watching his siblings becoming involved in politics in those years when people were desperate to change the world, and while he was a nice little scamp, his heart set on having fun, they were making their way into the world determinedly, as intellectuals and artists. This was especially the case for his twin brother Marco, who was already experiencing his first successes back in 1965 with Fists in the Pocket, for which he scooped Best Director in Locarno, and China is Near, which earned him Venice’s Silver Lion in 1967.
In a letter to his twin, Camillo asks if there’s room for him in the world of film. In a family which was ultimately, as Bellocchio explains, devoid of any affection and where the order of the day was survival, no-one noticed the deep malaise of this younger brother, his unhappiness which stemmed from comparing himself to his siblings. Camillo didn’t know what to do with his life, he felt like a failure, and, in the clutches of an identity crisis, he hung himself. The description of how his mother and siblings found his body is bloodcurdling. Bellocchio, who was in Rome at the time of his brother’s death, speaks of how he met him for the last time in 1968, at the height of his “revolutionary” phase. As an antidote to his existential crisis, the director advised him to serve his people by taking a stand against the bourgeoisie. Camillo answered: “Marx can wait”, implying that he had far more important things weighing him down. A phrase which the director would later use in The Eyes, The Mouth in 1982.
(Translated from Italian)
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