When people talk about the great Italian film directors the names that consistently come up are: Fellini, Antonioni, and Bertolucci. I had seen three of his films prior to watching The Conformist (The Last Emperor, Last Tango In Paris, and The Dreamers.) I enjoyed those films but they lacked the lasting impact that La Dolce Vita held over me. That does not make them any less entertaining or of lesser value, I enjoyed all three, but they didn’t hit me the same way as La Notte or Otto e Mezzo. A colleague of mine and I were talking back and forth about the actor Jean-Louis Trintignant. I had really enjoyed him in Z and Il Sorpasso (which I mailed to my friend.) He recommended that I check out Bertolucci’s The Conformist. It was an excellent recommendation.
The film is an adaptation of a novel by Alberto Moravia. Moravia and Bertolucci were friends and Moravia allowed him to make changes to the storyline as he pleased. The central plot revolves around Marcello Clerici (Jean-Louis Trintignant), a young soon to be married Italian living in 1940s Italy. Marcello volunteers of his own free will to help the Fascist party by traveling to Paris to spy on the activities of one of his former college professors, Profesor Quadri (Enzo Tarascio.) Marcello’s goal in life is simple: to fit in to society at any cost. He marries his fiancé Giulia(Stefania Sandrelli) who thinks that he is just trying to take her on honeymoon to Paris to see the sights. As the film progresses his objective is changed to eliminating the professor completely. This becomes more complicated as it is revealed that he and his wife both begin to sleep with the professor’s wife, Anna (Dominique Sanda.) Marcello is assisted and followed by a member of the party, Manganiello (Gastone Moschin.) As Marcello and his wife become closer to the Quadris he finds his assignment more and more difficult to complete.
The film has a lot going for it. The performances are excellent, but Jean-Louis Trintignant is absolutely wonderful as Marcello. Trintignant uses his face to show so much emotional depth while saying very little. Stefania Sandrelli is very good as his doting and melodramatic wife. Dominique Sanda is quite sexy with a cigarette hanging out of her mouth. The film is beautifully shot by Bertolucci with Parisian and Italian streets taking center stage. The outdoor shots are grandiose panoramic lensed shots while the indoor shots boasts excellent depth and mise en scene thanks to cinematographer Vittorio Storaro who would later shoot Apocalypse Now. The film is extremely visually striking with excellent costume design and period relevant automobiles. The music in the film is by noted composer George Delerue, famous for Jules et Jim and many other classic French new wave films. All in all this is a film that any film lover will revel in.
Note: Bertolucci does not shy away from nudity or sexuality so there may be a couple instances that may be a bit much for some viewers. It is no where near the same scale as Last Tango in Paris, and is relatively tame in comparison, but is still worth noting.
Video: How’s it look?
RaroVideo did an excellent job on the transfer of the film. They used a new restoration supervised by cinematographer Vittorio Storaro conducted by the Cineteca do Bilogna. It is a sight to see and rivals any newer transfers of older films out on the market. There are no compression issues whatsoever. It looks great. If you are holding out for a version with better visuals, stop waiting and purchase the film. It looks fantastic.
Audio: How’s it sound?
Both English and Italian tracks are provided. I personally only watched the film in Italian, and was extremely impressed by the presentation. The film’s original sound design works well for a monaural track and I was consistently pleased with depth and clarity on the track. There is nothing but good news here.
Supplements: What are the extras?
In the Shade of The Conformist – In this visual essay, Italian film critic and historian Adriano Apra examines The Conformist, pointing out interesting little things about the film and reflecting on Bertolucci’s career. The real treat here is an exclusive interview with Bertolucci where he talks in great detail about the film. This was well worth watching and gave tons of background on the film. The interview was conducted in Rome on June 1, 2011. In Italian, with optional English subtitles. (58 min, 480/60i).
U.S. theatrical trailer for The Conformist. In English, not subtitled. (3 min, 1080p).
New, 2014 U.S. theatrical re-release trailer for The Conformist. Music only. (2 min, 1080p).
Booklet – 28-page illustrated booklet
The Bottom Line
The Conformist is my favorite of the Bertolucci films I have seen. RaroVideo has provided an excellent transfer of the film and fans of the film should not hesitate to pull the trigger and purchase this film. I look forward to watching this one numerous times in the future. If you are not sold on the film from my review, you can check it out for yourself on Netflix before you purchase it. Highly Recommended!