DATELINE: The Men Who Tango & Fall to Earth
For movie fans of a certain generation, this has been a watershed week.
Two famous names of the past, great directors from the 1960s and 1970s died within days of each other: Nicholas Roeg and Bernardo Bertolucci.
We are not surprised at how many people will say, “Who in hell were they?”
If you did not write, direct, or produce a blockbuster cartoon like Superman, Batman, or one of the other Justice League jokers, you likely are not a household name in the 21st century.
In their day, these two men were considered thought-provoking filmmakers. Each started as an apprentice cinematographer under one of the titans of old Hollywood:
Nicholas Roeg worked with David Lean, notable for Lawrence of Arabia.
Bertolucci worked with one of the giants of Italian 60s cinema: Pier Paolo Pasolini.
They managed to step out of the shadows to their own highly recognized movies: Roeg took several music stars and transformed them into movie icons. We think of Mick Jagger in Performance, one of those weird mythic blurring of music and movies. He followed up with a science fiction think piece, The Man Who Fell to Earth with David Bowie, no less.
Bertolucci seemed to take sexual politics as his nest-egg. His biggest film was the notorious Marlon Brando movie, Last Tango in Paris.
How quickly these two directors seemed to fall from fashion. In recent years they might have been thought to be dead for decades, not days ago. They never sold out to Hollywood blockbusters or TV miniseries. And, that may be their anonymous curse in the summaries of their lives.