Sunday, May 3, 2009

The Conformist

Last night I watched Bernardo Bertolucci's The Conformist, 1970,
based on the acclaimed novel by Alberto Moravia, and was completely
blown away by his photographic genius and brilliant performances
throughout. The main star is the handsome Jean-Louis Trintignant,
(remember him from A Man and a Woman? You know...dabadabada-
dabadabada.) who plays an Italian Fascist, traveling from Rome to
Paris, in 1938, with an assignment to assassinate his former professor.

This is a very complex film, woven with surreal flashback scenes, as
Trintignant, in the character of Marcello Clerici, struggles to find
himself, as well as complete the mission. It's an intelligent film full of
glamour, intrigue, sex and betrayal. The low lighting, oblique angels
and ominous soundtrack are icing on the cake.

One interesting bit of trivia is the Latin phrase recited by Clerici on
his way to kill Professor Quadris "Animula, vagula, blandula, hospes
comesque corporis", is the first line of a poem attributed to the
Roman emperor Hadrian. It translates loosely as "Little soul
wandering and charming thing. Where now will you dwell, guest and
companion of my body?"

There are several languages offered in which to view this film. I
recommend Italian, with the English subtitles. But, only if you need
them, like I did, of course.


  1. Glamour, intrigue, sex and betrayal? No wonder you liked it.

    I loved the way her black and white striped dress echoed the light/shadow. Symbolic, too?

  2. Yes, a very good film from a decade of many good films.

  3. I'm first, wow!
    Perhaps some people have lives for Saturday evenings instead of waiting for the meat loaf and baked potatoes......(asparagas on the side).......
    Anyway, am a big fan of all Italian movies, particularly of that period when R and I lived there.
    Question: why do I still think European movies have a certain something that Hollywood ones lack....?
    Happy weekend anyway.

  4. "The Conformist" sounds wonderful and the film clip was a true tease ending at such a key moment!

  5. Hi Willow.
    Complex films?
    My BF won't watch any with me (he controls the remote control).
    I have to watch them all by myself. That's good. I get to eat all the popcorn.

  6. Funny - You know this happens to ME too everytime my husband comes home from work. ;-}

    I like how her dress echoes the shadows from the venetian blinds.

    Also, do you think that the triplets of Belleville are based on the three singers in the top picture? Or was that the Bicycle Thief?

  7. ok I'll jot this one down. I watched "The Duchess" the other night re: your recommendation and found it fabulous.

  8. I've made a note of this one, I love Italian movies.

  9. Ominous Soundtracks. My daughter said life should come with our own soundtrack. So we could know. A Libra. Thank you for the review.

  10. I haven't watched subtitles in ages, this one sounds like a gem of a film.

  11. I enjoyed the video that i saw. I had not seen it before or even heard of it. It has all of the right ingredients to be successful if it wasn't.

  12. Yes, an excellent film and I might just have to watch it again; you always see something new every time you watch a good one!

  13. The Italians do know how to make good movies. I have Sundance and Flix and they show a lot of foreign films, which I love.

    I have already Tivoed two of your suggestions. They have not come around yet but they will. I will add this one to my Willow list of recommended viewing.

  14. intrigued. will have to check out the film. enjoyed the clip.

  15. I had not known about this film. Thanks.

  16. Ohhhhhh, you do have a thing for Jean-Louis, don't you? Now don't blush. I do too.

  17. I've not seen this one--sounds good to me. I'll have to try to investigate that one. I almost always enjoy a good foreign film, it seems. Thanks for the heads up on this film!

  18. Thanks for introducing me to this movie. Watched the Utube snippet which only serves to whet my appetite for more. Now I'm wondering where I could get a copy of the movie.

  19. Another good one for the list. Thanks, Willow!

  20. Loved the contrasts and angles of the B & W shots.

  21. Bernardo Bertulucci is one of my favorite Italian directors, thank you for reminding me to go and watch some of his brilliant movies again!

    "The Sheltering Sky" is probably my favorite among his works, with "Novecento" (1900) a close second. "The Last Emperor" was quite poignant, but somehow did not win my heart as a few of his more obscure movies did, "La Luna" one of them.

  22. P.S.:
    Have you read Alberto Moravia?
    I don't know how well he has been translated, but he sure is worth a try!

  23. Oh wow, the clothes and the hairstyles...absolutely beautiful! I hope I can find this movie!

  24. ok.......i watched the clip......
    who need drugs ?? lol

    i love the deco pieces and the sets.
    i am obsessed with sets.

    xxx's to you

  25. Hello Willow,

    There is obviously a cinematic world out there that is entirely passing me by!! At least I get to enjoy snippets through you!

  26. What film texture and drama! I will have to see this one, Willow. Thanks for posting. <3

  27. First of all, I love your new header. And I think that it suits my home computer better as it did not take that long to upload your page.

    'The Conformist' is one of those classics that make you fall in love with cinema all over again. I'm so pleased you liked it enough to write about it. It is, in my humble opinion, a much underrated piece.

    Many thanks.

    Greetings from London.

  28. Bertolucci is a fantastic director! Have you seen 'La Luna' (with Jill Clayburgh)?

  29. I adore Bertolucci, even his newer work is great. I reccommend Stealing Beauty and The Dreamers. I see you're reading Donald Hall, I always keep Jane Kenyon's work close to me. Hall just came out with a great memoir that I read quickly "Unpacking the Boxes."

  30. It's time for me to see this one again..Trintignant could do anything! Loved the line,"guest and companion of my body."
    Watched the most startling film yesterday, " The Celebration", Danish, 1998..won some major awards. From one of the Dogma directors. A farce? Brutal, black as hell, startling performances. Seems like a metaphor....Yikes!

  31. Beautiful cinematography (black and white in colour, if you get my drift).

    Agree with you completely on the language issue.

  32. I haven't seen this one but, from your description, it seems like a film I would enjoy. Thanks for recommending it!

  33. I have not seen this film, but from the brief snippet you provided, Willow, I'm sure I would enjoy it.

  34. Another fine post - took me back to my Philadelphia days when there were so many venues for seeing foreign films.

    Alas - only with netflix can one suus out such jewels in the rural south.

    Loving the next new look. Clematis rule in May!

  35. I have been foraging through your blog, and love it! I watched Le bicyclette for the first time recently, and as I was younger with more spare time, I loved to go to an obscure theater and watch foreign films...named my cats after the characters in french and italian!

    Like the poetry on her too, now I wish my workspace was as shuffled as yours, lol

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  37. Sounds like a great film. Strange I've never heard of it.

    But then, I suspect there are many great films that pass by unnoticed, while I rush out to see the latest Star Trek.

  38. It has always been among my favorite films even though it's so brutal. There's a way in which I could almost understand how he thinks, which is crazy, really crazy. Thanks for reminding me.

  39. That looks wonderful. Maybe for my husband's birthday. Thanks.


Inject a few raisins of conversation into the tasteless dough of existence.
― O. Henry (and me)