Conformist, The

Director: Bernardo Bertolucci

Bernardo Bertolucci’s 1969 Alberto Moravia adaptation is neither a rarity nor a revelation but it’s still as relevant as it ever was and very much a treat to behold, dazzling in its virtuosity and scale.
Jean Louis Trintignant’s angular shadowy Clerici is one of lif’s perpetual outsiders, a man so desperate to prove his normaility to himself an desperate to prove his normality to himself that he becomes an assassin for the Fascists, travelling to Paris on his honeymoon to murder his old professor and, it turns out, the woman her loves (Dominique Sanda). Working at the height of his powers, Bertolucci marries the psychological and the political with clarity and conviction; if the traumatic flashbacks seem a bit pat in retrospect, the director waves back and forth with astonishing assurance. But it’s the visual surface which impresses most – and which has exerted such a demonstrable influence on film-makers from Coppola and Schrader to the Coen brother. Designed by Fernando Scarfiotti and photographed by Vittorio Storaro, the picture incorporates elements of expressionism and surrealism in a brillinat schema that’s both cold and perversely sensual. Paris becomes a filtered blue nocturne; Rome a decadent, monumental mausoleum. Film-making to die for.

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