Fighting scene between mother and son

Dance scene in a café with Franco Citti

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Joe Silvery’s (Matthew Barry) mother Caterina Silvery (Jill Clayburgh) is a famed opera-singer. Joe is an adolescent boy with a bit of a compulsive mind. Joe’s father and mother are separated (father an Italian who continues to live in Italy, but Caterina and Joe left for New-York when he was very small). Joe’s mother married an American in New-York and Joe thinks of his stepfather as his real father (his New-York father is an amazingly witty person). Joe’s relationship with elder girls eventually led him to risky/crispy interests. Joe started using drugs but the situation is more complicated than this – his love for his mother made him need her more and more (retrospective paradox of two fathers?). His mother was devastated because of her husband’s sudden death in New York and decides to go away… return to Italy. Joe desperately needed her so they leave together.

Bertolucci doesn’t clear it for us – whether the hero of the film (Joe) remembers his Italian father. Later Joe’s mother explains to him that her love with his father wasn’t too successful because of grandmother (mother of Joe’s Italian father). While being very good to baby-Joe she was very jealous of Joe’s mother’s relationship with her son (Joe’s father). You know – “old mothers of young men can be jealous of the young women in their son’s lives”. In short, after the death of Joe’s American father everything changed! The mother-singer started to talk to Joe about his Italian father because she did everything to pull Joe out of his drug-obsession and things got even more dramatic and created additional traumas not without Joe’s fixation on drugs. The grandmother perfectly well remembered baby-Joe’s sweet nude little body and she tried really well to embrace and accept Joe and his mother.


It was a time when mother and son were living in harmony – mother trained her voice and rehearsed her partituras and her son felt close to his mother. They lived prosperously and quietly.


Here is Joe, shining and serious. He, may perhaps have some bright thoughts. And his gaze is trying to penetrate through his youthful hairdo.


Joe touchingly likes to keep close to his mother, be near her. She is beautiful. She cannot avoid him. And he likes to joke remembering his late father who recently passed away


Everything is well, mother and son are sharing their good feelings and smiles. They are happy. Just the two of them together. After the recent death of the father and husband they are both trying to readjust.


But suddenly something happened. Joe frightened his mother. Now it’s difficult even to recognize her. Yes, it happened – Joe was using drugs. But why? Mother and son lived so… quietly, so positively, so… mutually. But, thank god, Caterina knows and feels how to help him. Look, how professionally she holds him – her arms is reaching around his chest. She is with him, but how keep him from falling? Mistakes are not supposed to be repeated.


What is Joe doing? – Is he preparing the stuff? He is heating up the spoon. He is getting ready to…


The heroic mother is trying to grab Joe’s hand, but he is putting up a fight. He is resisting her! Something is unforgivably growing between mother and son…


This is the girl who brings Joe the drug. Take a look at her – her eyes are, it seems, like glasses, she is frightened and, as if, mute. But Joe’s gaze looks decisively. Is he blind in this moment?


Joe is trying to use a fork (!) to open his vein. How could he reach this point to agree to put himself through this poisonous sensation? Joe is preparing and is almost ready.

The mother is trying to save her son


How for Joe to stop his drug addiction and simultaneously how for his mother to be able to return to Joe’s Italian father with her love? The task is not an easy one. First Joe has to overcome his own drug obsession, and of course, it will be possible only with the help of his mother. Second of all – he has to be able to persuade his mother to believe that he needs and loves her and will try to overcome his drug addiction for her sake. Third – he has to convince her to believe that he loves her with absolute dedication and will not betray her again with his drug use. And fourth – he has to not only establish his own ties with his father but help his father to love his mother like Joe loves her and then their family can recover and become the best of families in the world! Now, they are in Italy and his mother and father have to love each other!


Joe, who was sometimes “super quiet after the influence” became for a while better than before in helping his mother, himself and their future family, which had completely shattered, but has to be recovered. That’s how many tasks Joe has right before his demanding mind. He wants to… recover their awkward broken family. He wants to prevail, not more not less.


How Joe’s mother was trying to save him from the demon of his drug addiction. Joe for a first time felt himself adult with his mother. He felt bigger than she who, as if, became smaller – as in this picture above. It’s, as if Caterina had to lose, taking away from herself – to give him strength.


He never forgot how his mother nurtured him, how she suffered. She and he overcame his drug addiction. He and she both became normal human beings, both caring about one another. Joe started to believe that he can make it, achieve it – mother was able to help him with his addiction. Joe put up a lot of fight and resistance but she didn’t give into him. Joe was happy that his mother will be able to love his Italian father whom she left years ago.


Caterina and Joe have recovered. They both started to talk about their previous conversations, about his stepfather who recently passed away in New-York and about his real father, the Italian who is waiting for them both. And, it is Joe, he believes, is the one who will unite them.


Caterina even tried to entertain Joe by pretending to be interested in this absurdly behaving “looker after” (casual man flirting with her).


Caterina even started to restore her singing voice and her son restores his curiosity and started proudly observes his mother’s success on the stage, success like it was before in New York.


And it happened – real father together with his real son. Can it be after so many years? To the right in the distant background of this shot we see the fathers’ mother (Alida Valli), who nurtured baby Joe when they all lived together in her house for a short time.


Life returns to where it all began. Pay attention to the legs and pants of Joe’s real father – past and future father. We see Joe’s mother from the back. We see baby Joe in front of her. And we see the barefooted father in Jeans. God save the new family! God save the two men, big and small for being near the mother and wife. And the grandmother and grandson together!