The Conformist

1970 | Drama | In Italian with English subtitles | 113 minutes

Info

Working for Mussolini in Rome in 1938, Marcello and his new wife, Giulia, depart on their honeymoon  to Paris. His boss gives him an assignment: while in Paris he is to assassinate his former philosophy professor, Luca Quandri, who fled Italy when the Fascists came to power. In a flashback, Marcello recalls his traumatic childhood when he’s harassed by his schoolmates and rescued by Lino, the chauffeur.  Lino then makes a sexual play for Marcello only to be rejected. Marcello grabs Lino’s pistol and shoots him. In another flashback, Marcello agrees to Giulia’s request to go to confession. The priest absolves Marcello of his past sins when he learns that Marcello is working for a Fascist secret organization. Marcello and Giulia arrive in Paris and make contact with Professor Quandri. The situation becomes very complicated when Marcello falls in love with Anna, Quandri’s seductive wife. An accomplice performs the assassination while Marcello passively observes from the car.  We learn how sex and violence in Marcello’s childhood  traumatized him for the rest of his life. And we learn why Marcello was so compelled to be a conformist and to go along with the pressures from others. 

Cast
Jean-Louis Trintignant (Marcello) / Stefania Sandrelli (Giulia) / Dominique Sanda (Anna) / Enzo Tarascio (Professor Luca Quadri)
Why Stream This Film?
It’s obvious that this film is not for everyone. Bertolucci employs a non-sequential plot, and the way he shifts from the present to the past may be disconcerting. But many  critics rightly call this film a Bertolucci masterpiece. If you are willing to navigate some of its difficult patches, watching this film will be worth your time. 
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score (Critics Consensus) 98% 98%
  • Metacritic Score 100% 100%
Accolades
  • Golden Globe Nomination—Best Foreign Language Film.
  • Grand Prix—Belgian Film Critics Association.
  • Academy Award—Nominated for Best Screenplay Based on Material From Another Medium.

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Cinematographer Vittorio Storaro—creating some of the most luscious images ever filmed—captures the characters’ emotions through framing, reflections, and saturated hues of blues and reds, even when the characters themselves are unsure. Bertolucci creates one of the finest examples of narrative bewilderment.
Charlie Schmidlin

The Playlist

It’s a superior film that equates the rise and fall of Italian Fascism with the short, dreadful, very romantic life of Marcello, a young man for whom conformity becomes a kind of obsession after a traumatic homosexual encounter in his youth. The film is flawed, perhaps, but those very flaws may make it Bertolucci’s first commercially popular film, at least in Europe, where there  always seems to be  a market for intelligent, upper middle-class decadence.
Vincent Canby

The New York Times

In a story full of treachery, cowardice, and sexual decadence, with an outcome that doesn’t end happily for anyone, the movie remains uplifting for its breathtaking style. Masterfully arranged for color, texture, decor, and camera fluidity, THE CONFORMIST is more like a symphonic poem than a movie.”
Desson Howe

The Washington Post

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