The Conformist (Classic Film Pick)
Made between "The Spider's Stratagem" (1969) and "Last Tango in Paris," (1972), "The Conformist" is Bernardo Bertolucci's immaculate work of cinematic art about the conflicted mindset of a man who carries out Mussolini's fascist ideology. Bertolucci's self-penned script is based on the same-titled novel by Alberto Moravia, and tells of Marcello Clerici (exquisitely played by Jean-Louis Trintignant) who, when he was a boy, murdered a chauffeur that attempted to sexually molest him. As an adult, Marcello takes a job as an assassin working for Mussolini's secret police. In order to conceal the murder he committed as a child, Marcello desperately wants to become an ultimate social conformist with the "normal reality" of fascism. While on honeymoon in Paris with his wife Giulia (Stefania Sandrelli), Marcello takes an assignment to assassinate Professor Quadri (Enzo Tarascio), a former teacher who espouses anti-fascist ideals. A romantic affair with Quadri's bi-sexual wife Anna (Dominique Sanda) weighs heavily on Marcello's act of violence that reveals the extent of his cowardice. Cinematographer Vittorio Storaro works with a painterly eye for transmitting Bertolucci's thematic image system wherein light and dark represent Marcello's caged psychology of a fractured unconscious and conscious mind. Storaro's formal compositions and elegant camera movements are breathtaking in their dynamic precision. The film's use of expressive Italian and French locations, and architectural designs provide it with an enormity of fascist influence that is enthralling as it is intimidating. Conformity is a specter Marcello can only chase.
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