Gillo Pontecorvo followed The Battle of Algiers with another assault on colonialism, a Conradian story with Marxist overtones, set on a Caribbean island in the 1840s. When originally released here in English, Burn! (1969) was cut by 20 minutes, was dumped without fanfare, and died a quick death. Film Forum will be showing the complete, Italian-language director’s cut. A flawed, but intriguing work, it offers, here and there, proof of Pontecorvo’s gift for ecstatic epic filmmaking. Marlon Brando plays a provocateur sent by the British to foment a slave rebellion against the Portuguese and thus ensure English control of the sugar trade. In Brando’s bravura performance as the foppish, decadent, self-loathing villain, the actor did elevate a simplistic allegory into something approaching Shakespearean tragedy. That performance is visible, but not audible, in this version. He was dubbed into Italian by a standard-issue Cinecittà post-syncher, with an emphatically butch baritone. His body language and the dubbed line reading contradict each other—the character no longer makes any sense. Hey, you win some, you lose some.
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