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Bernardo Bertolucci’s “The Conformist” is a visually stunning masterpiece and one of the best movies of the 1970’s. Between Vittorio Storaro’s dramatic cinematography and the moral dilemmas facing the protagonist, The Conformist grabs the viewer from the very beginning and stays with you long after the film ends.
The Conformist is Marcello Clerici (Jean-Louis Trintignant), a man consumed with the desire to be “normal”. He wants nothing more than to fit in, conform to the role and rules society has scripted for him as per Mussolini’s Italy. To that end he becomes a fascist collaborator and even marries the pretty, bourgeois, and naive Giulia (Stefania Sandrelli) not so much out of any genuine love but because he thinks it will make him “feel” normal.
Soon a fascist espionage organization enlists Marcello to contact his old philosophy instructor at university Professor Quadri who is now exiled in France. Mussolini’s government considers Quadri a bigger liability from Paris than he ever was while teaching in Rome. Marcello agrees to the assignment and uses his honeymoon as a cover for his trip to Paris.
Marcello begins to have doubts as soon as he sets eyes on Professor Quadri’s much younger and beautiful wife, Anna (Dominique Sanda). Anna is seductive and bisexual ….I could never figure out who she was more interested in seducing, Marcello or Giulia. But Anna’s no dummy. She immediately suspects that Marcello is a fascist spy.
But while he vacillates during his time in Paris in the end Marcello’s cowardice wins out and he fulfills his appalling mission.
Fast forward six years later as Mussolini and his regime crumble Marcello meets with a friend from his bachelor days, Italo. They walk the streets of Rome keeping a low profile as the anti-fascists celebrate throughout the city. It is here that Marcello’s past finally and shockingly catches up with him exposing at last what he has kept hidden and repressed allowing the viewer to understand what has so driven the protagonist to be a conformist.
You can purchase The Conformist DVD from Amazon by clicking here.