La Luna (1979 film)

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La Luna
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Bernardo Bertolucci
Produced by Giovanni Bertolucci
Written by Giuseppe Bertolucci
Clare Peploe
Bernardo Bertolucci
Story by Franco Arcalli
Giuseppe Bertolucci
Bernardo Bertolucci
Starring Jill Clayburgh
Matthew Barry
Veronica Lazar
Renato Salvatori
Tomas Milian
Music by Ennio Morricone
Cinematography Vittorio Storaro
Edited by Gabriella Cristiani
Fiction Cinematografica
20th Century Fox
Distributed by 20th Century Fox
Release date
September 30, 1979
Running time
142 minutes
Country Italy
Language English
Budget $5 million[1]
Box office $68,204,193

La Luna, also known as Luna, is a 1979 Italian film directed by Bernardo Bertolucci and starring Jill Clayburgh. The film concerns the troubled life of a teenage boy and his relationship with his parents, including an incestuous relationship with his mother.


Joe (Matthew Barry) is the son of famous opera singer Caterina Silveri (Jill Clayburgh). While Joe believes that Caterina's husband, Douglas Winter (Fred Gwynne), is his biological father, the truth is that he was sired by Caterina's former lover, who is now living in Italy and working as a schoolteacher. Joe is moody and rebellious and needs a strong father figure to guide him and keep him in line, but Douglas is ineffectual and emotionally weak, and when Joe witnesses the sudden death of Douglas, it sends him over the edge. In hopes of boosting her singing career, which has fallen into a rut, Caterina decides to move to Italy with her son. There, Joe falls in with a dangerous crowd and becomes addicted to heroin.

Caterina is heartbroken and hopes to lure her son back to a safer and more healthful lifestyle. She tries in many instances to get closer emotionally to her son hoping that increased contact will prevail over the pull of the drugs. She even contacts his drug dealer to ask for sympathy for her situation. At one point, when Joe is desperate for a fix, his mother masturbates him just to get his mind off drugs temporarily.

Seeing no other alternative, she decides to drive to the location they originally lived, where her estranged lover lives with the hope that some sort of fatherly bond will cure her son. Along the way, tensions, some sexual, derail and prolong the trip. Eventually the son is dropped off at the ex's home, but Joe, rather than telling his father that he is his son, says that he is instead a friend of his son, and that his son overdosed on heroin after lifelong turmoil over the absence of his biological father. With some sort of closure achieved for the boy, he returns to his mother who is preparing for an opera. Embracing, they reaffirm their love for each other, and together the son and his father, who has come to watch the performance, and who now knows Joe's true identity as his child, hear Caterina sing at her very best.



In his two star review, the critic Roger Ebert wrote of Bertolucci "He's got a soap opera and a freudian case history (traditional enemies in their natural states) and he's forcing them to copulate".[2]

In the London review of books Angela Carter wrote of Jill Clayburgh's performance "Jill Clayburgh, seizing by the throat the opportunity of working with a great European director, gives a bravura performance: she is like the life force in person".[3]

In an entry dated 7 September 1979, Russian film director Andrei Tarkovsky wrote in his diary "Saw Bertolucci's La luna. Monstrous, cheap, vulgar rubbish."[4]


  1. ^ Aubrey Solomon, Twentieth Century Fox: A Corporate and Financial History, Scarecrow Press, 1989 p259
  2. ^ "Luna 1979". Roger Ebert reviews. Retrieved 28 September 2014. 
  3. ^ "Angela Carter responds to Bertoucci's La Luna'". London Review of Books. Retrieved 28 September 2014. 
  4. ^ Tarkovsky, Andrei (1991). Time Within Time: The Diaries 1970–1986. Seagull Books. p. 205. ISBN 81-7046-083-2. 

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