Archive for the ‘Italian Cinema’ Category

The film (aka. The Conformist) is based on the 1951 book of the same name, by Alberto Moravia. The story is set in the 30s when Fascists had tightened their control over Italy. The central character is Marcello Clerici (Jean-Louis Trintignant), one who desperately needs to belong. For him marriage is a normal life. ‘I’m going to build a life that’s normal. I’m marrying a petty bourgeoise’.
Bertolucci has given for his need to conform a motive, in his latent homosexuality. Thus marriage is a means to conform, a smokescreen to hide his innermost fears. Hence the title.
The film opens with Marcello Clerici (Jean-Louis Trintignant) hurrying to save Anna the wife of his former college professor, Luca Quadri (Enzo Tarascio). It is 1938. A series of  flashbacks delve into his past in order to show the kind of mentality that Fascism fed upon.
He is planning to marry a woman who is sensual but silly. He characterises her as ‘mediocre’ and his casual approach to confession shocks the confessor. What is she? A mound of petty ideas. Full of petty ambitions. ‘She’s all bed and kitchen’. Such an attitude to his future wife and the family he intends to raise necessarily invite comparison with his mother, a morphine-addict stuck in a decrepit villa while his mad father is commited to an asylum.
He has known another kind of isolation, that family wealth brought to him as a boy. He was sexually bullied by his schoolmates until he is rescued by chauffeur Lino (Pierre Clémenti). Lino offers to show him a pistol and then makes sexual advances towards Marcello. To this he responds by grabbing the pistol and shooting wildly all around and Lino is felled by one of the bullets. He thinks he has killed him.
As a man in fascist Italy, Marcello finds himself a cog in a great bureaucratic machine that keeps Italy going. Even for such religion must mean surely something in Italy? Marcello knows whatever be the crime or sin of the flesh confession will make amends. Marcello the conformist tells his confessor, ‘ I want to be excused by society. Yes. I want to confess today the sin I’ll commit tomorrow. One sin atones for another. It is the price I must pay society. And I shall pay it’. With such a moral mindset he has no uneasy conscience when he is asked to assassinate his former mentor who is an enemy to fascism. He accepts the order.
His botched attempt to do the job at a big party brings more operatives and the professor and wife are killed. This scene is beautifully orchestrated visually as well as aurally that it will linger in the mind of the viewer long after watching the film. The crucial moment is when he,unable to respond to the plea of Anna but digs deeper inside the car brings shock and despair to his once lover. She and her husband had in their Paris apartment hosted him knowing well he could be there only with criminal intentions. She succumbs to his passion,-mind you during his honeymoon, and she pleads, ‘don’t hurt us, marcello.’
After overthrow of Mussolini in 1943 Marcello is advised to escape.
Giulia: What are you going to do now?
Marcello: The same as everyone else who thought like me. When there are so many of us, there’s no risk.

Ideologies like caravans move on and those who wanted to ride the baggage train of Nazism or Fascism find themselves left out. It is what happenes to  Marcello.  He denounces all those on whom the charges may stick. He recognizes Lino his former chauffeur as a homosexual, fascist, and of participating in the murder of professor Quadri and his wife. He also accuses his only friend Italo from the former times. In the end, Marcello is alone, unaccepted by the people of the new partisan political movement. He sits near a small fire and looks behind him through a metal grate, mulling over Plato. Dry as dust matter for one who has lost his best part, his integrity.
Only one flaw I could think of and it is very serious one. It is the casting of Clierci. Tritingnant has a very strong personality ,-and is heroic, that while watching him we tend to accept him even when he behaves so abominably as required of the part. It seems to undermine the purpose of the film.

‘In addition to its strong storyline, the film is critically revered for the astonishing production design by Nedo Azzini, which, together with Vittorio Storaro’s camerawork, recreates the atmosphere of Fascist Italy with some of the most complex visual compositions ever seen on film, filled with highly stylized uses of angles, shapes, and shadows. The Conformist was cut by five crucial minutes when first released in the US; those missing moments were restored in the 1994 reissue’.(Hal Erickson-all movie)
Similar Movies
Mephisto  (1981, István Szabó)
Lacombe Lucien  (1974, Louis Malle)
Colonel Redl  (1985, István Szabó)
For a Lost Soldier  (1993, Roeland Kerbosch)
The Damned  (1969, Luchino Visconti)
The Garden of the Finzi-Continis  (1970, Vittorio De Sica)
Hanussen  (1988, István Szabó)
The Night Porter  (1974, Liliana Cavani)
La Strategia del Ragno  (1970, Bernardo Bertolucci)
Gli Occhiali d’Oro  (1987, Giuliano Montaldo)
Movies with the Same Personnel
1900  (1976, Bernardo Bertolucci)
Partner  (1968, Bernardo Bertolucci)
La Tragedia di un Uomo Ridicolo  (1981, Bernardo Bertolucci)
The Sheltering Sky  (1990, Bernardo Bertolucci)
Last Tango in Paris  (1972, Bernardo Bertolucci)
Sans Mobile Apparent  (1971, Philippe Labro)
La Commare Secca  (1962, Bernardo Bertolucci)
The Last Emperor  (1987, Bernardo Bertolucci)
Bertolucci’s cinematic style synthesizes expressionism and “fascist” film aesthetics. Its style can be compared with classic German films of the thirties, such as in Leni Riefenstahl’s The Triumph of the Will and Fritz Lang’s Metropolis.[5]

The drama was influential to other filmmakers: the image of blowing leaves in The Conformist, for example, influenced a very similar scene in The Godfather, Part II by Francis Ford Coppola (1974).[6]

Filming locations

The filming locations included: Gare d’Orsay and Paris, France; Sant’ Angelo Bridge and the Colosseum, both in Rome.[7]


* Jean-Louis Trintignant as Marcello Clerici
* Stefania Sandrelli as Giulia
* Gastone Moschin as Manganiello
* Enzo Tarascio as Professor Quadri
* Fosco Giachetti as Il colonnello
* José Quaglio as Italo
* Dominique Sanda as Anna Quadri
* Pierre Clémenti as Lino
* Yvonne Sanson as Madre di Giulia
* Giuseppe Addobbati as Padre di Marcello
* Christian Aligny as Raoul
* Carlo Gaddi as Hired Killer
* Umberto Silvestri as Hired Killer
* Furio Pellerani as Hired Killer
Directed by     Bernardo Bertolucci
Produced by     Giovanni Bertolucci
Maurizio Lodi-Fe
Written by     Bernardo Bertolucci
Alberto Moravia
Starring     Jean-Louis Trintignant
Stefania Sandrelli
Music by     Georges Delerue
Cinematography     Vittorio Storaro
Editing by     Franco Arcalli
Distributed by     Paramount Pictures
Release date(s)     October 22, 1970
(USA and Italy)
Running time     107 minutes
111 minutes
(Director’s Cut)
Country     Italy
West Germany
Language     Italian
memorable quotes:
[denies a rumor regarding his father]
Marcello: You see, the origin of my father’s mental illness isn’t venereal. That can be medically confirmed.
Giulia’s Mother: By the way, my little girl has had the mumps, scarlet fever, and German measles.
Marcello: They’re all very moral maladies.
Marcello: I’m going to build a life that’s normal. I’m marrying a petty bourgeoise.
Confessor: Then she must be a fine girl.
Giulia: Speak out. Go ahead.
Marcello: Mediocre. A mound of petty ideas. Full of petty ambitions. She’s all bed and kitchen.
Confessor: The one thing you have to do is repent and humbly ask His pardon today.
Marcello: I’ve already repented. I want to be excused by society. Yes. I want to confess today the sin I’ll commit tomorrow. One sin atones for another. It is the price I must pay society. And I shall pay it.
Italo: A normal man? For me, a normal man is one who turns his head to see a beautiful woman’s bottom. The point is not just to turn your head. There are five or six reasons. And he is glad to find people who are like him, his equals. That’s why he likes crowded beaches, football, the bar downtown…
Marcello: At Piazza Venice.
Italo: He likes people similar to himself and does not trust those who are different. That’s why a normal man is a true brother, a true citizen, a true patriot…
Marcello: A true fascist.
Giulia: He’ll be a typical intellectual, disagreeable and impotent.
Professor Quadri: Clerici, you had me convinced you were the typical new Italian.
Marcello: No such type exists yet, but we’re creating him.
Anna: Through repression?
Marcello: No, through example.
Anna: Giving him castor oil? Throwing him into prison? By torturing them? Blackmailing?
Professor Quadri: Anna, please, dear, calm down. Clerici is a fascist. I’m an anti-fascist. We both knew. And we decided to have supper together all the same.
[after overthrow of Mussolini]
Giulia: What are you going to do now?
Marcello: The same as everyone else who thought like me. When there are so many of us, there’s no risk.
Giulia: Marcello, don’t go out. They could hurt you.
Marcello: I won’t be in danger. After all, what have I done? My duty.
Giulia: But why do you want to go?
Marcello: I want to see how a dictatorship falls.
Giulia: [sexually aroused while kissing Marcello on a couch] If you want… want to…
Marcello: If I want to…?
Giulia: Yes, right here… on the floor… on the carpet… Want to?
Marcello: Better think about the priest. He may not grant absolution.
Giulia: They grant everyone absolution.
Giulia: Oh, hunchbacks bring good luck.
Giulia: [somewhat inebriated] Shopping is only for women. Husbands pay!
Giulia: What was Marcello like as a student?
Professor Quadri: Serious. Too serious!
Giulia: But you can’t be too serious.
Professor Quadri: Really serious people are never serious.
Anna: [to Marcello] You’re only a worm. You revolt me. You’re disgusting!
Manganiello: [disgusted by Marcello’s inability to act and leaving their car] How disgusting! I’ve always said so. Make me work in the shit – sure, but not with a coward! It’s up to me! Cowards, homosexuals, Jews – they’re all the same thing! If it were up to me, I’d stand them all against a wall!
[he blows on his fingers in the stinging cold]
Manganiello: Better yet – eliminate them when they’re born!

#  The Latin phrase recited by Clerici on his way to kill the Quadris was “Animula, vagula, blandula, hospes comesque corporis”, the first line of a poem attributed to the Roman emperor Hadrian.

# When Clerici asks the operator to connect him with Prof. Quadri, the telephone number he gives is the (one-time) telephone number of Bertolucci’s idol Jean-Luc Godard. When Quadri answers the phone, Clerici recalls one of his lectures in which Quadri said “The time for reflection is over. Now is the time for action.” This is the opening line in Godard’s film Le Petit Soldat.

# Bertolucci proposed the film adaptation of the novel to Paramount, without ever reading it himself. Within a month, he started the screenplay.

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