Second film in a row where I am seeing the final film of a director with four entries on the 1001 list. In real time it wasn’t that long since I saw his previous entry – Last Tango In Paris – but in emotional time it was an age ago. That’s not even taking into consideration the mental suppression I had to do after that butter rape scene.
Of the four Bertolucci films that I have seen for the 1001 list, The Conformist isn’t just my favourite but also the most beautifully shot. As much as I enjoyed The Spider’s Stratagem, the direction and cinematography have nothing on this. The way that space is used in the shots from the stark open space of the mental hospital to the simple layout of the rooms in the fiancée’s family home is outstanding. Even the final shots in post-fascist Italy are stunning, especially the final act of ‘conforming’ in the ruins of the Teatro Marcello.
The title tells you pretty much what you need to know about the main character. This is a man who will conform to what he needs in order to get along. It’s not even as if you could think of this as him just surviving as that would imply some sort of aversion to the beliefs he holds in order to life. I imagine that if this was made in a country that was taken over by Nazi Germany, rather than being set in Mussolini’s Italy, the title may have been more along the lines of the The Collaborator.
This is a man who feels the need to clumsily ingratiate himself with the secret police and so ends up being given a job assassinating a former teach of his that now lives in exile. In a modern terms this is like a Republican who abandoned all scruples to become a Trump super fan and then, now Trump is no longer in office, is shoving other Trump supporters under the bus to divert attention from him. At least in this metaphor, he doesn’t end up helping assassinate two innocent people.
In watching The Conformist I finally managed to clock that Jean-Louis Trintignant as an actor I’ve seen in a bunch of other films, including Three Colours: Red, Amour, Z and My Night At Maud’s. I know that two of those were him as a much older man, but wow how long it has taken me to realize this. At least I got there in the end with, what I think is, his final film on the 1001 list.