Conformist, The DVD: Review By Evan "Mushy" Jacobs

An interesting movie that examines what it means to be normal.
  • Feature
  • Extras
  • Replay Value
An interesting movie that examines what it means to be normal.
I have a feeling this movie's editing style might be a tad too jarring for some.
The Conformist is a film by Bernardo Bertolucci that examines the life of Marcello (Jean-Louis Trintignant). He is on a mission to kill his former professor because he is Anti-Facist. As Marcello makes his way to France to kill him we see Marcello reflecting on his life and some of the reasons why he is the person that he is. The structure is highly nonlinear with Bertolucci not really offering much to juxtapose between the two times. The film could play for some like a mishmash for the editing room. Traveling with Marcello is his wife Guilia (Stefani Sandrelli) who is oblivious to everything that is going on. There is some tension, when Marcello finally confronts his target, because he also has had a past with his wife. Eventually, this movie reveals more about Marcello's through his lack of action than anything else.

All in all, if you are willing to take the journey, The Conformist is well worth the ride.
The Rise of the Conformist

I would say that one might want to watch this before they screen the movie. I feel this way because this film is confusing and Bertolucci (thankfully) doesn't go out of his way to illuminate much. He and renowned cinematographer Vittorio Storaro discuss the many themes of the film, how it came together, and how the character was always trying to hide as an assassin.

Shadow & Light

Set in the 1930s, Bertolucci and Storaro discuss the sets of the film and overall how the visual look was achieved. Bertolucci says that he and Storaro work together well because they are on the same page in the sense of the mise en scene. Storaro discusses such tricks as using light to help put the characters in "cages." A lot of this you most likely wouldn't ever pick up on, so it's nice that these two masters point it out.

The Conformist: Breaking New Ground

I loved this section. It isn't that long but I enjoyed hearing Bertolucci talk about the editing of this film. Editor Franco Arcalli did a tremendous job of opening up the medium. The fact that Bertolucci shot many long shots and Arcalli still managed to put images within that, really shows you the radicalness that this movie was going after. It almost makes you sad because today, with budgets being what they are, this could never happen. Also, had it not been American directors getting behind this film, it most likely would have never played theatrically in the U.S..
This film is presented in widescreen format. I had always thought this movie was in black and white and I was almost jolted when I realized it was in color. It didn't look artificially colored and then, the longer I watched it, it played like a movie from the 1970s. By that I mean that it used new camera moves and editing techniques, that up until that time had not been seen on screen before. On this DVD, this movie still manages to strike a chord.
Dolby Digital. I had a bit of a hard time with this. The sound itself isn't bad it's just that I started watching it in English, thinking that I was going to get it subtitled. Well, it was dubbed. I then tried to watch in Italian, but for some reason I was only able to watch it in English. However, certain parts of the English Dubbing job were left out, so there would be moments of characters speaking Italian and I would be lost. I probably should have gone straight subtitles.
A black and white image of Marcello with a crowd of people streaming out of him it seems is the dominant image on the front cover of this DVD. The back features more black and white images (odd, because the movie is in color and you would think they would want to sell it that way), a description, a Special Features list, a cast list, and some technical specs. Based on these misleading images, I had hoped this film was in black and white, maybe things were changed for reasons unknown?
I had heard about this movie for some time but I think Paul Schrader said it best when he spoke of Bertolucci as someone who had "took Godard and Antonioni, put them in bed together, held a gun to their heads, and said, 'You guys f*ck or I'll shoot you." While I am not 100% well versed in all of their films, I can say that his point is more than well taken. As I sat through this movie, I will admit that I was both lost, confused, as well as enlightened and even amused by some of the characters situations. I can't say that I always want to see movies like The Conformist, but I will say that they are certainly worthy of being seen.

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