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65 Conformist, The 
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Post 65 Conformist, The
One of the reasons I took this trip was to discover new movies that I had never heard of or seen. I wanted to be inspired to reach out and search for films that I might otherwise, not have seen. I wanted to be surprised and I knew that with that would come disappointment.

My knowledge of Bernardo Bertolucci was limited to “Last Tango in Paris” with Marlon Brando and butter and “The Last Emporer”. Sitting at no. 65 on the list of the greatest thousand movies if a film I had never heard of – The Conformist.

Can I digress for a moment? In 1982 I had one of the most amazing cinematic experiences when I saw Francis Ford Coppolla’s “One From the Heart”. That day I fell in love with Tom Waits - who I’d later get to know, Crystal Gayle and more importantly Dean Tavoularis and Vittorio Storaro. I followed their work after that. It was a thrill to see that Storaro shot this movie. But more on that later.

As a child I was pushed by my parents to follow a path. Do school well, go to college, find a decent job, meet a girl, get married, have kids, get a dog, live happily and die. It all seemed so great until it went off track and I started to see their advice as a conveyor belt where I conformed and fitted into the requirements of society, lost my identity and fitted in.

The reason this comes to mind is that central character in the movie is on the same track. He’s living in Mussolini’s Italy in the 1930’s and becomes a fascist because it’s the right thing to do at the time. He seeks to fit in, marries and ultimately he becomes an assassin. Why he really follows this path, I’ll let you discover. The story is told in a non linear fashion with many flash backs and scenes in apparent disorder.

The icing on the cake is the production design and most of all the cinematography by Storaro. Shot after shot could be a perfect still image and many sequences are unforgettable. This is a complete master class and worth while stopping the film to study. The most memorable is likely to be the scene in the forest beautifully lit through the trees. I wonder how many times the Coen Brothers viewed this before they filmed Miller’s Crossing?

The DVD is superb with a glorious print that emphasizes the gorgeous cinematography. In addition there are three 10-15 minute documentaries featuring Bertolucci and Storaro talking about the film. I was struck by how modest and unassuming the director appeared.

This is a great movie that any film fan should enjoy. However, the convoluted story line will take a little patience. While we are working it out there’s always the divine images from Storaro and the wonderful score from George Delerue (Contempt) to keep us involved.


Tue Jul 21, 2009 10:29 am
Post Re: 65 Conformist, The
Rob gives a good account of this movie. I feel a little bad, actually, because he mentioned most of the little things I wanted to talk about. So, the score is in fact very good and the visuals are something to behold. I'll add that it's not just the way the movie was filmed. The set design and architecture is very unusual so that a film released in 1970 but set mostly in the early 1940s does look fairly modern today.

As Rob has pointed out, the film is something of a social commentary by having the protagonist be the ultimate conformist. He's not content with just conforming by getting married to a woman who is "all kitchen and bedroom" but ends up becoming a fascist because it's the thing to do. It's a pertinent question. It's easy to judge the character, but would we have the courage to resist if we lived in a fascist state? Don't we all conform to some sort of ideal?

My main criticism is the way the film is edited. The movie frequently jumps around in time and eventually it emerges that the story is being told via flashback (and sometimes flashbacks within flashbacks). That makes it a little difficult to follow at the start. While that abates after some time I still feel the structure needlessly convolutes the picture. It would have retained its power with a conventional narrative. It's still probably a great movie though. 8/10.

Tue Aug 23, 2011 9:59 pm
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