The Conformist

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Bernardo Bertolucci’s breakthrough masterpiece The Conformist is both a searing study of sexuality and politics set in 1930s Italy and a stunning triumph of opulent visual storytelling. Jean-Louis Trintignant (Amour) stars as Marcello, a confused, weak-willed young man with a troubled past – in other words, the perfect tool for a fascist organization looking to use him for espionage purposes. As Marcello embraces the ideals of fascism as a way of suppressing his taboo sexual desires, he and his equally shallow wife are drawn into a deadly game of intrigue and assassination, and they soon learn the price of unthinking conformity in a dangerous world with warring agendas. Based on the classic novel of the same name by Alberto Moravia, The Conformist unfolds as a series of flashbacks and flashbacks-within-flashbacks in service of a twisty plot with a distinctly noir flavor. The sheer extravagance of the film’s visual design — expressive lighting, lavish decor, sumptuous costumes, elaborate tracking shots — evokes the classic Hollywood studio cinema of Sternberg, Ophüls and Welles, and offers up some of the most gorgeous images ever put on celluloid, courtesy of virtuoso cinematographer Vittorio Storaro (three time Oscar-winner for Apocalypse Now, Reds and The Last Emperor). Haunting, surprising and cinematically ravishing, The Conformist not only ranks as one of Bernardo Bertolucci’s best films (a list which also includes Last Tango in Paris and The Last Emperor), but also as one of the greatest films to emerge from the European art film boom of the ‘60s and ‘70s. (Dir. by Bernardo Bertolucci, 1970, Italy, in Italian with subtitles, 111 mins., Rated R) 35mm