Written by: Michael Den Boer on March 1st, 2012
Theatrical Release Date: Italy, 1970
Director: Bernardo Bertolucci
Screenplay: Bernardo Bertolucci
Cast: Jean-Louis Trintignant, Stefania Sandrelli, Gastone Moschin, Enzo Tarascio, Fosco Giachetti, José Quaglio, Dominique Sanda
BluRay Released: February 27th, 2012
Approximate running times: 113 Minutes (BluRay), 109 Minutes (DVD)
Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1 1080 Progressive (BluRay), 1.66:1 Anamorphic Widescreen (DVD)
Rating: 15 (UK)
Sound: Dolby Digital Mono Italian
DVD Release: Arrow Academy
Region Coding: Region B (BluRay), Region 2 PAL (DVD)
Retail Price: £27.99
Synopsis: Marcello Clerici (Jean Louis Trintignant) is a troubled man in search of his identity. He is invited to join Mussolini’s fascist party as a spy and an assassin. His first assignment is to kill a former professor of his who fled Italy when the Fascists came to power. Recently married Marcello takes along his wife with him to Paris where he is too find the professor and eliminate him. Shortly after his arrival in France Marcello refuses to complete the job after he falls in love with the professors’ wife.
All great artists have that pinnacle moment when their work reaches an apex of brilliance that defines everything they do from that moment on. For director Bernardo Bertolucci his transformation from avant-garde filmmaker to a virtuoso trend-setter happened with his 1970 film The Conformist. His past films had shown great promise of greater things to come with his 1964 film Before the Revolution being his most accomplished of these earliest efforts. The Conformist is based on a novel written by author Alberto Moravia. One of The Conformist’s strongest assets is its narrative structure which was created post production by the films editor Franco Arcalli. The Conformist also marked the first time that worked Bernardo Bertolucci with Franco Arcalli. The films non linear flashback structure may be too much for some viewers to follow. Also without giving away to much about the crux of the story watch these flashback sequences very carefully as they explain why the lead character Marcello Clerici is the way is he is.
Film is collaborative art and when thinking about the film The Conformist it is impossible to overlook or understate Cinematographer Vittorio Storaro’s contributions to The Conformist. Storaro is one of the worlds most known and respected Cinematographer’s and his cinematic journey with Bernardo Bertolucci began with the film Before the Revolution in which Storaro worked as the films camera operator. In the 1970’s Storaro and Bertolucci would create some of the most beautiful films ever made like The Spider’s Stratagem, The Conformist, Last Tango in Paris and Novecento (1900).
Vittorio Storaro is master of lighting and manipulating colors to achieve a specific mood. The Conformist is filled with many jaw dropping shots of flawless beauty like Marcello and his wife on their train ride, leaves blowing in the wind as the camera cranes from a very low angle towards a car or Professor Quadri and his wife Anna’s murder scene. These are just a handful of moments in a film overflowing with artistic grandeur. In a long and varied career Storaro has created many visual feats for the eyes, still one would be hard pressed to choose any of his other films over The Conformist as the peak of his talents as a Cinematographer.
All of the cast do a good job with their various roles. Watch for actress Dominique Sanda who appears as three different women in the film with her main part being professor Quadri’s wife Anna. Actor Jean Louis Trintignant performance as Marcello Clerici is the glue that holds this jigsaw puzzle. His subdued performance is never overstated as he captures the essence of the part he is playing. Jean Louis Trintignant has made many great and his work in The Conformist definitely ranks amongst his best. Ultimately The Conformist is not a film that is easily digested upon the first viewing. Subsequent viewings are recommended to fully appreciate this film’s vivid visual tapestries’ and its rich plot filled with Freudian subtext.
The Conformist comes on a 50 GB dual layer BluRay. The film is presented in a 1080 progressive anamorphic widescreen. Colors and flesh tones look accurate and there is a marked improvement when it comes to the amount of detail in very frame, when compared to the region 1 DVD release from Paramount. Grain structure looks natural, contrast levels look stable and there are no issues with compression. The black levels are the most problematic part of this release, at times they look a tad too soft.
This release comes with one audio option, a Dolby Digital mono mix in Italian and removable English subtitles have been included with this release. Dialog comes through clearly, everything sounds balanced and the more ambient aspects of the soundtrack are well represented.
Extras for this release include a audio commentary with Italian cinema expert David Forgacs and a documentary titled ‘Bernardo Bertolucci: Reflections on Cinema’ (51 minutes 32 seconds – 4:3 full frame, in Italian with English subtitles). Topics discussed in the audio commentary include, the book from which the film was adapted from, class division and the rise of fascism in Italy, the film’s protagonist, locations, the look of the film and various other production related topics. The documentary ‘Bernardo Bertolucci: Reflections on Cinema’ is well rounded look into the career of Bernardo Bertolucci, via archival and on set footage.
Also included with this release a booklet that contains, a brand new writing on the film by critic Michael Atkinson, a re-printed interview with Bernardo Bertolucci from 1971 and Bertolucci’s thoughts on filmmaking. It should be noted that the DVD does not contain all of the content on the Blu-Ray disc. With the documentary ‘Bernardo Bertolucci: Reflections on Cinema’ not being included with the DVD disc that was included as part of this combo release. Overall, though this may not be the knock out release that fans of this film have been hoping for, it is still never the less a strong release from Arrow Academy that compares favorably to all the other home video releases of this film.
Note: Bernardo Bertolucci’s name has been misspelled ‘Berndardo BertoLucci’ on all four cover panels that have included with this release.