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The Conformist

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    Horace Cordier
    Senior Member

  • Conformist, The



    Released by: Raro Video
    Released on: November 25th, 2014.
    Director: Bernardo Bertolucci
    Cast: Jean-Louis Trintignant, Stefania Sandrelli, Gastone Moschin
    Year: 1970
    Purchase From Amazon

    The Movie:

    One of the more interesting facets of fascist WWII era history is the difference in national character between the Italians and the Germans (and even the Japanese). While Mussolini invented modern fascism, it was left to Adolph Hitler to "master" it. While the Germans had a weakness for following orders and more easily submitting to authoritarianism, there was always something of the "make love not war" gene in the Roman DNA. As long as Mussolini had the trains running on time and the economy ticking along, the masses were content. But even in the period leading directly up to the war, political operatives weren't quite as dedicated to the cause as their German brethren.

    Which leads us to Bertolucci's magnificent THE CONFORMIST.

    Marcello Clerici (Jean-Louis Trintignant) is a member of the Italian secret police. It's 1938, and all hell is about to break loose on the European continent. Mussolini's government is heavily engaged in the process of destroying leftist dissent. The recently married Clerici is ambitious but not particularly dedicated. His wife, Giulia (Stefania Sandrelli) doesn't really excite her husband. In the first part of the film we see some interesting scenes of Clerici in church recalling past traumas and confessing to crimes he committed as part of his job. When he heads off to Paris for his honeymoon however, things get explosive. Quadri (Enzo Tarascio) - a one time college professor who was close with Clerici and is now in political exile - has been ordered assassinated. Things get complicated when the agent falls for the professor's lovely wife Anna (Dominique Sanda).

    THE CONFORMIST has many strengths as a film, but its greatest power resides in its tantalizing ambiguity. Trintigant, one of France's finest actors, manages to create an arresting character out a man who's really nothing but smoke and mirrors. While Clerici can kill when necessary he derives no satisfaction or sadistic thrill from it. It is a simple matter of a necessary step in his career trajectory. As the film progresses, we see that his infatuation with his target's wife is more important to him than the job he's been contracted for. He can't even really hide his respect for the professor he's supposed to kill. Clerici is simply a lousy fascist. His greatest ambition seems to be to assume the mantle of outward normality so that he can carry out his "professional" duties unobtrusively. But he's ambivalent about even that. Clerici's far more capable and deadly henchman Manganiello (Gastone Moschin) knows this. Clerici is a flake.

    Another intriguing aspect of the film is how it deals with almost everyone's moral cowardice. Aside from the idealistic professor, the other players on Bertolucci's stage harbor no real convictions. Communists are willing to bend in the name of survival. Clerici's apolitical wife uses her disinterest as a shield and Clerici's old pal and radio personality Italo (José Quaglio) is a piss poor Joseph Goebbels imitator who you sense would switch sides in a second if Il Duce were to fall.

    Since THE CONFORMIST is every inch the European art house classic, it makes sense that a huge amount of Bertolucci's artistic energy is directed at creating a sumptuous visual feast. Working with acclaimed DP Vittorio Storaro (THE BIRD WITH THE CRYSTAL PLUMAGE) and set designer Ferdinando Scarfiotti, Bertolucci's film dazzles in scenes stretching from grand palace interiors to cold winter forests. The use of light and shadow is particularly skillful. Sometimes things border on the ostentatious, but when you are dealing with talents of this caliber on both sides of the camera, who's going to complain?

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    Raro, provided with a transfer from Italy's Cineteca di Bologna, have delivered an excellent presentation. The 1080p AVC VC 1 encoded 1.66:1 framed image looks terrific. Color palette and saturation are handled particularly well and shadow detail (a huge part of THE CONFORMIST's look) is exemplary. Some minor image wobble does pop up a couple of times as well as some small examples of print damage so this isn't a perfect presentation. But film grain looks fine and natural and no telltale signs of digital scrubbing are present. Detail - in everything from facial close ups to sets and clothing is at the upper end of the scale.

    The disc contains Italian LPCM 2.0 and English LPCM 2.0. tracks. First off, while its nice to have the English dub with Trintigant's real voice it's best to ditch it and stick with the far more authentic Italian track and its English subtitles. Dynamic range is only hampered by age-related source limitations which means that everything is clear but range is slightly limited. The mix does handle the film's strong score quite well however.

    Renowned Italian film critic Adriano Apra is the real star of the disc's meatiest extra - an hour long analytical piece on Bertolucci titled "In The Shadow Of The Conformist". The title is a bit misleading though since the critic analyzes quite a few of Bertolucci's other works. The highlight of this extra is Apra's meticulous deconstruction of THE CONFORMIST's color scheme. The director himself does make an appearance delivering some insight into the film as well. Beyond this mini-documentary the disc sports the 1970 USA theatrical release trailer and the rerelease one and a 28 page booklet with various critical writings on the film and Bertolucci's career.

    The Final Word:

    Along with Roberto Rossellini's ROME OPEN CITY and Visconti's THE DAMNED, THE CONFORMIST is one of Italy's greatest films to deal with the specter of fascism. Bertolucci's brilliant work has gotten the release it deserves. Buy with confidence.


    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!





















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