Il conformista | The Conformist [1970]

8/10 | 31.May.12
Il conformista | The Conformist

DIRECTOR: Bernardo Bertolucci  |  WRITERS: Bernardo Bertolucci, Alberto Moravia  |  CAST: Jean-Louis Trintignant, Stefania Sandrelli, Gastone Moschin, Enzo Tarascio, Dominique Sanda, Pierre Clémenti  |  Italy

I was too young to understand what Il conformista was about the first time I saw it. I still find it enigmatic these 40-odd years later, but I think I have a firmer grasp on what Bertolucci was after (and I suppose Moravia, too, although I have no idea whether that’s the case). It strikes me that Marcello Clerici (Jean-Louis Trintignant; excellent) is a Tom Ripley type, a cerebral loner with no fixed personality, no center, who fixes for himself a circumscribed and easily delineated role that he’s comfortable playing. It’s when the ground rules change that the fictional personality unravels. I’m just thinking this as I’m typing so perhaps I’m way off base, but I’m sensing that we’re meant to see that what’s true for the individual Marcello Clerici is also true for the masses…well, I need to think about the implications of this as a critique of fascism. I’m not always a fan of Bertolucci’s directing, but his work here is superb, never giving you firm enough ground to feel that you really understand what is going on. The art direction and cinematography are exceptional, the acting rather less so with the mystery and beauty of Dominique Sanda once again eluding me: I see a vaguely attractive clotheshorse with zero screen presence or charisma.

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