The Conformist Screen 16 articles

The Conformist

1970

The Conformist Poster
  • Bertolucci seems unable to accept Moravia's plot on its own terms, and thus undercuts every traumatic and dramatic climax in the novel by making it aesthetical or hysterical with camera shakes and color splashes as if every then situation were sidetracked by a now feeling. Thus the homosexual assault that is supposed to have started everything off loses any aura of violated innocence by its choreography of complicit and the suicidal morbidity of the would-be seducer.

  • In retrospect, Bernardo Bertolucci's highly influential fifth feature (1969)—ravishing to the eye but less than fully satisfying to the mind—can be regarded as the lamentable turning point in an extremely promising career that ultimately chose stylishness over style and both over content.

  • The film is decidedly a breakthrough for Bertolucci, sloughing off his heavy Godard influence once and for all. It's here that he achieves "pure style," in the process showing what a double-edged sword that can be. Not that fascism doesn't deserve style or isn't stylish, as both Leni Riefenstahl and David Bowie could attest. But when it comes to actually making moral or political evaluations, The Conformist is kind of a wash, discussion of Plato's Cave and all.

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    Time Out London: Tom Milne
    December 1970? | Via Rotten Tomatoes

    Juggling past and present with the same bravura flourish as Welles in Citizen Kane, Bertolucci conjures a dazzling historical and personal perspective.

  • Watching this dazzling film now after nearly 25 years, I realize I'd remembered well what a murky text in many ways it is—how confusing the plot is and that there's no one to identify with—but what I'd forgotten, except in the most cursory way, is the extent to which this sensory joyride finally is all luxe and volupté.

  • The film’s style, both in movement and design, is symbolic of Fascism’s rise and fall: Just as Marcello Clerici’s attempts to order his life according to society’s harsh rules lead to his eventual psychic disintegration, so too do Fascism’s attempts at regimentation and authoritarianism lead to anarchy and chaos.

  • Storaro provides sumptuous visual effects that make the film appear to be a dream inside a dream. Bertolucci says in the DVD interview that he always thought it was a shame that films had to be edited from the daily rushes. For him, the rushes represent the unfiltered creativity of the entire enterprise. Nonetheless, Storaro and film editor Franco Arcalli manage to keep an impressionistic, almost surrealist feel even as they create a mood and narrative drive that build from illusion to horror.

  • Is his masterpiece Last Tango in Paris? Nope, because that film's Brando would hardly have been conceivable without The Godfather and, thus, without Bertolucci's achingly perfect The Conformist, a bold stroke that predicts the entire inward sweep of the 1970s.

  • If you’re a fledgling, Bertolucci’s masterpiece . . . will be the most revelatory experience you’ll have in a theater this year. Fleshing out novelist Alberto Moravia’s shadow-box between political compliance and personal shame, Bertolucci created the most arresting mise-en-scène ever concocted for any movie, set entirely in rainy city afternoons and indigo evenings. You can hardly help corresponding the film to seminal mood moments in your own life.

  • Unlike most of 2010's offerings, the story is told to a great extent visually—by which I mean color, framing, clothing, and sets, not frame-fucked-to-death montages. Photographed by Vittorio Storraro (who would work similar magic with Apocalypse Now), it's a mélange of the sensual haziness of '70s European art-house fair and the high-contrast, anxious angles of film noir.

  • ...Bertolucci's boldest and most expressive film... The Conformist [is a] more trenchant and acerbic anti-fascist critique than the comparatively crude 1900. Here, those drawn in under the influence of fascism aren't rendered as caricatures of cruelty. They needn't be: Their weakness, in Bertolucci's conception, speaks for itself.

  • It's a whirlwind display of styles, an inexhaustible compendium of cinematic ideas. (Not for nothing has it been one of the most influential modern movies, sampled by Scorsese, Coppola, Spike Lee, and many others.) Several set pieces—the dance of the blind, the explication of Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, the climactic murder scene in a snowy wood—have become legendary, but every scene, virtually every shot, contains marvels of light, color, movement, and decor.

  • Visual splendor reigns supreme in Bertolucci’s dazzling historical dreamscape, a slinky camera in continual activity: Gliding from snow and metallic blues to fallen leaves and burnished yellows, the mise en scène reaches an apotheosis with a teasing tango and then dissolves in the handheld terror of a roadside assassination. The 1943 stretto unfolds in a dictatorship's literal ruins, and gazes back over the shoulder and into the repressed truth. A ripe, masterly erudition, velvety yet unsettled.

  • If Trintignant portrays Marcello with purposeful banality, Bertolucci uses elaborately stylized composition and cutting to tell the protagonist's story. Compositions regularly marginalize characters against vast backdrops, shoving heads down to the bottom of the frame to lend greater importance to cavernous, fascist architecture and classical Italian décor. This produces innumerable great shots, most strikingly in the depictions of the rotting wealth of Marcello's family.

  • Bertolucci presents Alberto Moravia’s tale in a complex flashback structure full of Ophulsian lighting and some borrowed camera movements from Welles... Marcello’s repressed and displaced homosexual energy is the highlight of the spontaneous ideas appearing as oneiric, intercut flashbacks.

  • One of the greatest-looking movies ever made, it's easily the most important revival screening in town this week. It remains a career best for cinematographer Vittorio Storaro, who also shot Apocalypse Now and Warren Beatty's Reds. The Conformist features rich, deep colors and lots of gorgeous and precise camera movement; you could watch it with the sound off and it would be no less impressive.

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