Bernardo Bertolucci's 255-minute 1900 was a gargantuan undertaking, requiring the resources of three European countries and a trio of American movie studios.
Set in the Italian town of Parma, the film's continuity backtracks from Liberation Day in 1945 to the occasion of composer/patriot Giuseppe Verdi's death in 1901. We follow the lives of two men born on that day in 1901, who grow up to be Alfredo Berlinghieti (Robert De Niro) and Olmo Dalco (Gérard Depardieu).
Wealthy Alfredo sinks into dissipation, while poverty-stricken Olmo becomes a firebrand labor leader and communist. After WWI, Alfredo is allowed to peacefully retain his land holdings by playing nice with the burgeoning fascists; Olmo, on the other hand, engages in a long-standing battle against the minions of Mussolini.
The two protagonists are reunited when Alfredo returns to Parma to preside over Olmo's trial for political crimes. Co-star Burt Lancaster is cast as Alfredo's wealthy grandfather, who hates to see the old values buried beneath the social travails of the 20th century.
Many American prints of 1900 were shortened to 243 minutes, rendering the story hard to follow at times.