Vatican Newspaper Praises Bertolucci's 'Me and You' for its 'Secular Morality'

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The film, released 40 years after Bertolucci's "Last Tango in Paris" was criticized by the church, is a story about the turbulence of youth.

ROME – Some 40 years after he earned the Vatican’s ire with the racy romantic drama Last Tango in Paris, Bernardo Bertulucci is evidently back in the Catholic Church’s good graces, after the Vatican’s official newspaper gave a thumbs up to the 72-year-old director’s latest work, Io e te (Me and You).

In a review, L’Osservatore Romano's film critic, Luca Pellegrini, praised the film under the headline “Hate, Love, and Hope.” Pellegrini wrote that Bertolucci “has the desire to help [the characters], with a breath of secular morality that too often, for others, is easily transformed into pedantic moralizing.”

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The film, which premiered in Cannes, tells the story of a introverted teenager who spends his vacation alone in his basement after he tells his parents he is going on a ski trip. The film is set to open in Italy on Thursday.

For his part, The Hollywood Reporter critic David Rooney called the film, Bertolucci’s first since The Dreamers in 2003, “an intimate wisp of youthful unease that’s disappointingly low on resonance.”

In 1972, the Vatican was less kind to Last Tango in Paris, which won Oscar nominations for both Bertolucci and for Marlon Brando, the film’s protagonist. The story about a young Paresian woman (played by Maria Schneider) in a sordid affair with a visiting American businessman (Brando), who demands their secret meetings be based only on sex, was seen as unnecessarily raunchy.

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The Vatican, often through L’Osservatore Romano, has never been shy about weighing on cinema. In September, for example, the newspaper said Ridley Scott’s Prometheus, “mishandles the delicate questions raised by … the battle eternal between good and evil in yet another attempt to steak the secret of immortality.”

Other recent films to earn criticism from the Holy See include James Cameron’s Avatar, The Da Vinci Code, directed by Ron Howard, and Marco Bellocchio’s euthanasia drama Bella Adormentata (Dormant Beauty), which drew fire from Catholic advocacy groups when it premiered in Venice in September, though not from the Vatican itself.

But the Vatican has also endorsed its share of films over the years, including Cecil B. DeMille’s The Ten Commandments, Jesus of Nazareth from Franco Zeffirelli, Mel Gibson's The Passion of The Christ, Victor Flemming's Joan of Arc, It's a Wonderful Life from Frank Capra, and even The Blues Brothers comedy from John Landis, which L’Osservatore Romano called a “Catholic Classic” on the 30th anniversary of its release in 2010.