Recently rediscovered, Bernardo Bertolucci’s only feature-length documentary Oil / La via del petrolio 1967 traces the routes of global oil production from well to barrel. Made after his acclaimed film Before the Revolution / Prima della rivoluzione, 1964 and commissioned for Italian television, the film lead Bertolucci to a new way of filmmaking shooting whatever hit his eye. As Bertolucci recalled in 1995 ‘it was a commissioned documentary, but I did it trying to get away, whenever I could, from the temptations and rules of documentary film-making. I filmed the drillers as if they were pioneers in an old western movie, the helicopter pilots as anarchistic and individualistic heroes, like the solitary figures of Godard or Only Angels Have Wings.’
Structured in three parts, the film begins with Origins / Origini that was filmed in Iran, establishing a poetic register depicting the Iranian and Italian oil workers; the second, The Journey / Il viaggio, interweaves literary and cinematic references as it traces shipments through the Suez Canal and the Mediterranean Sea; and the third, Across Europe / Attraverso l’Europa, employs the fictional figure of a journalist (the Argentinian poet, Mario Trejo) who playfully guides the filmmaker through Europe.
Bernardo Bertolucci Canal / Il Canale Italy, 1967, 12 min
The screening is accompanied by Bertolucci’s short film Canal 1967 that explores the influential trade route of the Suez Canal in Egypt. Together these fascinating films explore the international links between natural resources and global capital.
La via del petrolio and Il Canale are shown courtesy of eni S.p.A and Archivio Nazionale del Cinema d’Impresa