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« Elsewhere | Main | State of Emergency »

August 18, 2005

"The Conformist"

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

Paradoxical-seeming but true: One of the most influential movies of the last 35 years has been one of the hardest to get an actual look at. Bernardo Bertolucci's extraordinary political/psychological thriller "The Conformist" has had a double-H huge impact on the look of contemporary dramatic movies and television shows. (It was shot by the great Vittorio Storaro, then only 30 years old.) Yet it has turned up only rarely at repertory houses, and it has never been issued on DVD.

New York City filmbuffs are in for a rare treat: New York's Film Forum is showing a restored print of the film through August 23rd.

Here's a BFI interview with Bertolucci, Gilber Adair, and David Thomson on the occasion of Bertolucci and Adair's recent "The Dreamers." Here's an interview with Storaro.



posted by Michael at August 18, 2005


Wow, what a coincedence -- I just saw this movie last night, as part of a three-night run at the Cinematheque in Toronto. As a big Martin Scorsese fan, I was keen to see the movie he's cited as a major influence, and I was NOT disappointed!

I didn't know that Vittorio Storaro was the DP on it and very nearly cheered out loud when his name appeared in the credits. There are numerous shots in this film that made me catch my breath (and the sets...!)

The movie's blending of sexual, moral and cultural politics was a bit too fierce for a couple of my friends, though they marvelled that a film from 1970 could still unnerve them so completely.

I can't fathom what legal red-tape nightmare is keeping this film from being released as part of the Criterion Collection. I would happily fork over 60 bucks to own this remarkable film.

Posted by: Scott D on August 18, 2005 5:58 PM

There's always Alberto Moravia's novel as well, of course.

But, weird. I've taped my copy of Il Conformista from a television broadcast some time ago, and it has been shown on several European channels ever since.

Posted by: ijsbrand on August 18, 2005 7:03 PM

Hmmm... I've only seen this on a crappy VHS copy. Is it crazy that I'm considering making the 3 hour drive down to Manhattan this weekend to catch a show?

Posted by: jimbo on August 18, 2005 11:46 PM

Scott -- Thanks for the report. Nice to hear that the movie stands up and still packs a wallop. It's something I often marvel at, as a graybeard and former moviebuff: the way many younger people simply don't know what a wonderful artform movies can be, or how wrenching, transporting, and deeply moving they can be either. For most younger people, movies just seem to be one more form of trash pop culture, there to be hooted at (or identified with, in the most narcissistic way). Yet there really has been so much amazing work. I may just be raving, but it seems to me that a plausible case could be made for the proposition that 20th century movies were every bit the equal (or at least approached the class of) any of the other great eras in the arts. That's why it's so sad to see what's becoming of movies. Sniff, sniff, I know ...

Ijsbrand -- I really should read Moravia one of these days, sigh. Are you a fan? Is "The Conformist" a good place to start? Interesting to learn that the movie has been more available in Europe than in the U.S. Ownership and rights questions with movies can get to be so complicated. It's amazing some of them get released at all.

Jimbo -- That's the kind of thing I'd have done at your age! Mix it up with too much coffee, visits to an art show or two ... Hard to beat as an art high. If you make the pilgramage, please let me know how you react to the movie.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on August 19, 2005 10:57 AM

Moravia has written a couple of great books. But at the same time, since I haven't read or reread any of them for the last fifteen years, that's a dated opinion. As I recall my problems with his books were the same I have with more Southern European writers. There is always something Catholic about them, even when they're not religious, that's different from the more down-to-earth Calvinistic culture I grew up in. Sometimes I simply can't stand that.

Posted by: ijsbrand on August 19, 2005 1:34 PM


We walked by the Paris yesterday. They're showing Balzac and the Chinese Seamstress -- have you seen it?

They were also advertising The Maltese Falcon Saturday at 9. I wonder if they're starting a midnight revival series? They don't seem to have a website to check.

One of the surprising pleasures of living in Paris was that they constantly showed classic American movies from the 20s and 30s, in English. A theater on the rue Christine showed Fred Astaire movies practically nonstop.

Posted by: john massengale on August 19, 2005 10:55 PM

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