Screened as part of Autumn Events 2015
Bernardo Bertolucci’s 1970 masterpiece is a political thriller set in Mussolini’s Italy. A monument to art deco style, The Conformist intoxicates with its exultant design and chills with its furious, contained energy. Its incisive portrait of a repressed man (Jean-Louis Trintignant) drawn to Fascism unfolds in a series of unforgettable set-pieces – a wedding night on a train, his wife Stefania Sandrelli and her lover Dominique Sanda dancing the tango in a working class hall, a limousine ambushed in a wintry forest. This new release is the result of a 2011 restoration from original source materials, supervised by cinematographer Vittorio Storaro and approved by Bertolucci.
“The story follows Marcello (Jean-Louis Trintignant), a would-be sophisticate lining up with Mussolini’s Fascists in the 30s for his own, very private reasons – as the title makes clear, this is participatory politics seen as psychosocial dysfunction. Being ‘normal’ is an ideal the fiercely closeted Marcello talks about a lot, his desire to belong spiraling out to include marriage (to the fabulously pliable and obnoxious Stefania Sandrelli) and insinuating himself into the Party by framing his old university mentor and, by extension, the prof's sexy, testy trophy wife (Dominique Sanda)…
All at once, The Conformist is a bludgeoning indictment of fascistic follow-the-leader and an orgasm of coolness, ravishing compositions, camera gymnastics (the frame virtually squirms around, like Marcello), and atmospheric resonance – as if its decadent, twilit–art deco–noir style is itself a refutation of dictatorial social norms… Vittorio Storaro's lens transforms every street and room into a catalytic baroqueness; the clothes grip the characters like iconic mantles – to a large degree, the film is an immaculate puppet play about the tension between pleasure (stylistic, sexual, etc.) and imposed duty.” — Michael Atkinson, Village Voice