Wednesday, November 5, 2014

499. Il conformista/The Conformist (1969)

Running Time: 111 minutes
Directed By: Bernardo Bertolucci
Written By: Bernardo Bertolucci, from novel by Alberto Moravia
Main Cast: Jean-Louis Trintignant, Stefania Sandrelli, Dominique Sanda, Gastone Moschin, Enzo Tarascio
Click here to view the trailer


Despite being one of the most disappointing seasons (groups of 100) yet, I will say this season has produced some of the most visually striking films I've ever seen. You've got the deuce from Terrence Malick - with Days of Heaven leaving me completely breathless at times, not to mention films like A Passage to India, The American Friend, The Night of the Hunter and Ali: Fear Eats the Soul. Add to that list The Conformist, which for all of it's shortcomings, looked like perfection.

To be honest, I'd have to look up a plot synopsis and read it in order to detail the plot for you here. I'm not saying that I didn't pay attention, actually quite the contrary, as I struggled to pay extra attention, knowing that this films talk of fascism and government operations in Italy's early 20th century could easily lose me. Add to the fact that THIS GUY is no history major, the film is also told in a very subtle, non linear format, making it hard to distinguish what is now and what is then. That being said, I'll try to paint you some sort of picture here. The film's main character is Marcello Clerici (Trintignant), a fascist and an assassin who is about to kill a former professor of his, Professor Quadri (Tarascio). During one timeline, we see Marcello being driven in a car by associate Manganiello (Moschin), as they pursue the car of the professor. In another of the film's flashback timelines we observe as Marcello prepares to marry Giulia (Sandrelli), a beautiful, yet dim witted brunette who makes him go to Catholic confession before tying the knot with him. The two's honeymoon serves as the excuse as to why they're visiting the town that the ex professor lives in. which happens to be Paris. Once in the home of Quadri, Marcello develops an attraction for his young wife Anna (Sanda - looking stunning). Meanwhile Anna plays hard to get, instead showing feelings for Giulia, who is hesitant at first, but later welcomes Anna's advances. The entire film not only explores political affiliation of the 1930s, but is also an exploration of human sexuality, as the film features many characters who are unsure of their own sexuality, perhaps mimicking Bertolucci's own ambiguity.

I don't really have a whole lot to say on the matter. I will say this, I was never going to love this movie and long time readers should have known that. I'm just not the guy you go to when you have a film about world history and events that shaped countries around the world. I realize you don't have to be a buff to GET this movie, but it helps if you have a general knowledge, something I don't really have. It's interesting because I was actually asked today if I was going to go vote and I answered, that no I wasn't and in fact I didn't even know who I was supposed to be voting for, be it governors, senators or what have you. If I don't even know what's going on in the world around me, how am I ever supposed to get my head around a film that touts fascism and Mussolini as it's main backdrop? Sure, the film has other appealing aspects, which I'll get into momentarily, but those things really held me back from enjoying this 100%.

Of course, if you've read anything about this movie then you've read that it's gorgeous and I'm here to back that up, 100%. I mean, at times, I don't even care that I'm not completely comprehending what's going on, as long as I'm being pitched these eye popping images. Also the score is pretty brilliant to, accompanying the images perfectly, making me even more angry that the plot isn't joining in to make this a trifecta of greatness. I wanted to like this movie so much, yet in the end, I can say I only thought it to be just better than average. I wanted this to be my redemption for basking in the guilty pleasures that were the Terminator movies and while this film blew those ones out of the water in the cinematography department, I'd have to go with T1 and T2 as the winners where enjoyability and strength in plot are concerned. I will, however, take the blame. It was my fault that I couldn't follow along plot wise and actually another go at it someday may warrant a more positive response from yours truly. As it is, I can still recommend this film on the merits of the camera work alone and tell you that even if you don't get EVERYTHING that's going on, you'll at least be treated to visually stunning images and a powerful score. Oh yeah, the acting is pretty top notch too, but I don't recall many foreign movies where the acting isn't up to snuff. They really have the jump on us when it comes to acting chops, that's for sure...and when I say "they" I mean pretty much every other country. Oh I'm sure they have their fair share of bad actors, I've just never seen them.

I don't mean to mislead either when I say there's no plot, because there is one and in fact, the whole sexual ambiguity of the characters is just as important as the political stuff. Don't ask me why, but I've always been sort of fascinated with the sexual comings and goings of characters in films, especially foreign films. Again, don't ask me why but the foreigners (I'm talking the mainly the French and the Italians) are sort of mired in this ambiance of romance, love and sexual perversion and to watch them intermingle, have affairs and try to sort out their troubles on the relationship front is always fascinating to watch. In doing a bit of research, it seems that Bertolucci himself was actually thought to be bisexual, as were many of his characters - not only here, but weren't there bi characters in "1900"? In closing, I'll say it again, a rewatch of this movie is probably just what the doctor ordered and hopefully someday I can revisit it.

RATING: 6.5/10  I really wanted to bump it into '7' territory just for the sights and the sounds alone, but I felt it undeserving of that caliber of rating.


November 5, 2014  1:09am


  1. Hi there.. after the bombshell of me liking Terminator, my turn to be just slightly surprised you liked this highly political film.
    But great.. I certainly did.

    1. Political, yes and that's what kept me from really loving it. However, everything else was right on.

  2. Wow, we just don't agree much lately. I thought this movie was pretty much a masterpiece. This was one of my favorite discoveries from the book. Sorry that you didn't like it more. Maybe I rate all of these movies a bit high because in my opinion they are so superior to most films now. Oh well, good reviews anyways.

    1. Thanks for the kudos on the review! I definitely liked it, I just wouldn't go so far as to call it a masterpiece. I can definitely see where you're coming from though.


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