The Conformist

"Essential"

The Conformist Review


Bernardo Bertolucci has always been one of the scant few directors to actually understand the art of eroticism. There's an irrepressible elegance in the way he films women and the way they look when they're just existing or preparing for a tryst with a lover. His early films have a way of stressing those flippant eyebrows and coy smiles over the quick glimpse of the nipple or (god forbid) full breasts. The lilting gasps and moans of lovers preparing and engaging in their blissfulness is a nervy symphony for his acutely shot images. Even now, 36 years after his best film and three years after his amicable The Dreamers, Bertolucci's films seem to careen with seduction in ways that no other filmmaker can possibly recreate. Though best known for Last Tango in Paris, The Conformist still holds as Bertolucci's most provocative work and a classic of Italian New Wave.

Marcello (the great Jean-Louis Trintignant) has a common yearning in his life, though he puts it much more bluntly than others would. Marcello wants to be normal. Normal as in Fascist, normal as in wife, children and government job, and, finally, normal in that he represses and attempts to forget all his dark dreams and past deeds. The charge from his hushed organization is to assassinate his old philosophy professor (Enzo Tarascio) in France while on a fake honeymoon with his "petty" wife, Giulia (Stefania Sandrelli, playing the part with a marvelous mixture of oblivious commitment and hollowed sexiness). While on assignment, he flirts and sneaks to hidden corners with the Anna (Dominique Sanda), the professor's volatile, anti-Fascist wife, and attempts to keep his agency contact (Gastone Moschin) happy.

Bertolucci, only 29 at the time, commands the screen with a series of stylistic and technical haymakers. The timeline gets chopped up and scattered as if it were being prepared on Iron Chef, returning intermittently to Marcello's solemn façade as he gets driven through a snowy back road by his contact. Though the car ride is all melancholic gray, the rest of the film tilts at the spectrum. Most notable is the use of blue when Anna begs for her husband's life, right before going shopping with Giulia. It gives the night time setting an alien glow of nostalgia and (let's just say it) an irrevocably cool look.

Fundamentally, Bertolucci attacks the ideologies of the Fascists by embracing a cool, rupturing anti-hero in Marcello. His ultimately indefinable hatred for feeling and public love is expected, but it's the way that Bertolucci punctuates this with a series of perversities and devious acts that turns Marcello into a classic construction of complexity. The one time we see him wanting to openly have sex with his wife is when she tells him of a six-year, obviously detrimental affair she had with a 60-year-old family friend, in a train no less. Even more striking is the confessional scene, where Marcello openly (in front of Giulia) tells a priest about a sexual molestation and subsequent murder he was involved with as a child, and then talking of his need for "petty" things and a "normal" life. The point of the chat with the priest is that sin is no longer a surprise in the modern man, only the time it takes him to confess the acts and start racking up points again. Since he never made another film that even came close to The Conformist, the assumption would be that Bertolucci is in desperate need of some time with a man of the cloth.

The new extended edition DVD includes several making-of featurettes.

Aka Il Conformista.



The Conformist

Facts and Figures

Run time: 111 mins

In Theaters: Thursday 22nd October 1970

Distributed by: Paramount Pictures

Production compaines: Mars Films, Marianne Productions, Maran Film

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 100%
Fresh: 47

IMDB: 8.1 / 10

Cast & Crew

Producer: Maurizio Lodi-Fe

Starring: as Marcello Clerici, as Giulia, Gastone Moschin as Manganiello, as Anna Quadri, Enzo Tarascio as Professor Quadri, Fosco Giachetti as Il colonnello, José Quaglio as Italo, Pierre Clémenti as Lino, Yvonne Sanson as Madre di Giulia

Also starring:

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Imperium Movie Review

Imperium Movie Review

First-time filmmaker Daniel Ragussis takes an unusual approach to this thriller. Since it's based on...

The Girl With All the Gifts Movie Review

The Girl With All the Gifts Movie Review

Like a 10-years-later follow-up to 28 Days Later, this small British thriller takes a refreshingly...

The Magnificent Seven Movie Review

The Magnificent Seven Movie Review

Director Antoine Fuqua brings his usual fascination with violence to this remake of the iconic...

Bridget Jones's Baby Movie Review

Bridget Jones's Baby Movie Review

As it's been 12 years since the last Bridget Jones movie, expectations aren't too high...

The Beatles: Eight Days a Week - The Touring Years Movie Review

The Beatles: Eight Days a Week - The Touring Years Movie Review

A-list director Ron Howard worked with the surviving Beatles to assemble this engaging documentary, which...

Blair Witch Movie Review

Blair Witch Movie Review

It's been 17 years since The Blair Witch Project shook up the cinema and created...

Anthropoid Movie Review

Anthropoid Movie Review

Outside the Czech Republic, few people know about Operation Anthropoid, a spy mission in 1943...

Advertisement
Kubo and the Two Strings Movie Review

Kubo and the Two Strings Movie Review

From Laika (The Boxtrolls), this is one of the most beautiful, sophisticated animated films in...

Captain Fantastic Movie Review

Captain Fantastic Movie Review

An offbeat comedy-drama with a timely kick, this charming family road trip takes on some...

Hell or High Water Movie Review

Hell or High Water Movie Review

Sicario screenwriter Taylor Sheridan delivers another fiercely intelligent, engaging story that maintains high suspense while...

The 9th Life of Louis Drax Movie Review

The 9th Life of Louis Drax Movie Review

With heavy overtones of Hitchcockian mystery and intrigue, this stylish thriller is the enjoyably melodramatic...

Kickboxer: Vengeance Movie Review

Kickboxer: Vengeance Movie Review

The 1989 Muay Thai action movie Kickboxer starred a young Jean-Claude Van Damme, who pops...

Julieta Movie Review

Julieta Movie Review

Iconic Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodovar is back with another powerfully complex female-centred drama, along the...

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping Movie Review

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping Movie Review

An astute satire of the pop music business, this raucous mock-documentary is consistently hilarious from...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.