A weak-willed Italian man becomes a fascist flunky who goes abroad to arrange the assassination of his old teacher, now a political dissident.A weak-willed Italian man becomes a fascist flunky who goes abroad to arrange the assassination of his old teacher, now a political dissident.A weak-willed Italian man becomes a fascist flunky who goes abroad to arrange the assassination of his old teacher, now a political dissident.
Based on a novel by Italian author Albert Moravia (who also wrote the novel that inspired Godard's "Contempt"), "The Conformist" is the story of a closeted homosexual, Marcello (Jean-Louis Trintignant) who becomes a fascist yes-man, marrying a clueless girl, Giulia (Stefania Sandrelli) and going to Paris for their honeymoon. Marcello's bosses ask him to kill his old college mentor, Quadri (Enzo Tarascio), an anti-fascist who fled Italy to live in Paris with his young, beautiful and idealistic wife, Anna (Dominique Sanda). Anna and Marcello are former lovers, but that's not the only pitfall in Marcello's plan, nor is it stronger than his tragic conformism to an exacerbated political regime and the fear of living as a "pederast"/having his homosexuality made public.
The political factor is an open part of the plot, while Marcello's sexuality is very ambiguous (he seems to have real feelings for Anna, yet a childhood trauma and a homophobic attitude show his tragic character formation). "The Conformist" works as a riveting political thriller and a haunting character study, and it's impossible to praise this film without mentioning Vittorio Storaro's breath-taking cinematography, possibly his greatest (and that's saying a lot) and certainly one of the very best in film history. The whole film is so beautifully shot that every scene seems to be taken out of a painting; it could perfectly be photographed now rather than 38 years ago and it wouldn't look any better. The performances are all magnificent, particularly Trintignant, Sandrelli and Sanda, each perfectly portraying blind rage, ignorance and idealism, respectively. All in all, as close to perfection as film-making gets, and as timeless as its main themes (politics, conformism and sexuality) - if you think this couldn't happen today, take a look around and tell me how many gay Republicans you know?
- Aug 10, 2008