The Conformist View large image
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Film Details

Directed by: Bernardo Bertolucci

Produced: 1970

Countries & Regions: France, Italy

DVD Details

Certificate: 15

Studio: Arrow Films

Length: 113 mins

Format: DVD

Region: Region 2

Released: 1 October 2012

Cat No: FCD709

Extras:
Interactive Menu

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The Conformist

Cast: Jean-Louis Trintignant , Gastone Moschin , Stefania Sandrelli , Dominique Sanda , Enzo Tarascio , Pierre Clementi , Giuseppe Addobbati , Jose Quaglio , Fosco Giachetti , Yvonne Sanson , Milly

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Bernardo Bertolucci directs this powerful psychological thriller, considered by many to be his masterpiece. Jean-Louis Trintignant stars... Read More

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Bernardo Bertolucci directs this powerful psychological thriller, considered by many to be his masterpiece. Jean-Louis Trintignant stars as Marcello Clerici, a weak-willed young Italian who, owing in part to the torment of his repressed homosexuality, is desperate to appear normal to the outside world. To this end, he joins Mussolini’s fascist party as an undercover agent and undertakes to assassinate his former university professor (Enzo Tarascio), a left-wing political dissident who has fled fascist Italy for Paris. Arriving in Paris to carry out his deadly assignment while on honeymoon with his bride Giulia (Stefania Sandrelli), Marcello discovers that the professor is now married to the dangerously seductive Anna (Dominique Sanda), whose unfettered bohemianism and bisexuality hypnotise him even as they throw his own pallid conformism into stark relief.

Although his previous work had earned him a certain reputation, it was with The Conformist that Bernardo Bertolucci became a truly great director. Early promise had matured into genuine mastery. For the first time, he fully assimilated his impulses and influences, creating a work that can truthfully be described as a masterpiece.

It’s a film charged with Bertolucci’s concerns: sex, psychology, politics and cinema. Young Marcello Clerici (Jean-Louis Trintignant) was molested by the family chauffeur; he grows up desperate to erase the shame and does so by rigid conformity. Further embarrassed by his father’s reputation (the old man is incarcerated in an asylum), Clerici falls in behind Mussolini as he goose-steps into power.

With his marriage to a good bourgeois woman his conformity seems absolute, but the mask doesn’t fit as well as he hoped. The government orders him to spend his honeymoon in Paris, and to mix his pleasure with business by murdering one of his former professors, an outspoken critic of the Italian state. It is a task complicated by the feelings he develops for the professor’s wife and, perhaps, a twinge of revulsion. So, Italy’s moral collapse is embodied by a weak man who wants to appear strong. It might be instructive to compare The Conformist with Pasolini’s Salò, which also depicts the barbarity of the fascist state in terms of sexual aberration, albeit by observing animalistic indulgence rather than repression.

The Conformist is one of the most sumptuous films ever made, with the whole film consciously parallelling Hollywood glamour and the fascist aesthetic. Bertolucci and production designer Ferdinando Scarfiotti contrast the monochrome Clerici with striking art deco settings, while cinematographer Vittorio Storaro marries freewheeling new wave camera choreography to the kaleidoscopic lighting of an MGM musical.

The film was made at the very height of Bertolucci’s powers, in a dazzling year in which he also produced The Spider’s Stratagem. He would produce other remarkable films: all are worth owning. The Conformist, however, is essential.

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