Written by: Michael Den Boer on January 24th, 2007
Theatrical Release Dates: Italy, 1970
Director: Bernardo Bertolucci
Screenplay: Bernardo Bertolucci
Cast: Jean-Louis Trintignant, Stefania Sandrelli, Gastone Moschin, Enzo Tarascio, Fosco Giachetti, José Quaglio, Dominique Sanda
DVD released: December 5th, 2006
Approximate running time: 111 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sound: Dolby Digital Mono
DVD Release: Paramount
Region Coding: Region 1 NTSC
Retail Price: $14.99
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 Conformists strongest assets is its narrative structure which was created post production by the films editor Franco Arcalli. The Conrfromist 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 Conformists 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.
Paramount presents The Conformist in anamorphic widescreen that retains the films original 1.66:1 aspect ratio. The source material used for this transfer is nothing less then spectacular as colors look vibrant and nicely saturated and details look razor sharp though out. I did notice that the opening credits do not look as good as the rest of the film and even though they are not flawless they still look very good.
This release comes with (count them) five audio options English, Italian, French, Spanish and Brazilian/Portuguese. All five audio choices are presented in a Dolby Digital mono. For this review I primarily focused on the English and Italian both which sound really good considering the audio’s mono limitations and the age of the film. The English audio mix has more noticeable hiss then the Italian mix and other then that they are more then adequate as dialog is clear and music and effects sound balanced. Several subtitle options have been included with this release and they are English, Spanish and Brazilian/Portuguese.
Extras for this release consist of three making of segments titled “The Rise of the Conformist: The Story, The Cast”, “Shadow and Light: Filming the Conformist” and ‘The Conformists: Breaking new Ground”. Each of these segments are anywhere from twelve to fifteen minutes in length and they all feature comments from director Bernardo Bertolucci and Cinematographer Vittorio Storaro. Both men remember in great detail the making of this film and reflect with pride its impact on their careers.
Paramount Pictures does an admirable job with their fully loaded DVD release for Bernardo Bertolucci’s The Conformist, highly recommended.