Tracker Pixel for Entry

​Visual masterpiece ‘Conformist’ finally on Blu-ray

Cinema | December 4th, 2014

Italian director Bernardo Bertolucci has been making movies professionally for half a century, from 1962 through 2012. Arguably his best film, the groundbreaking “The Conformist” (1970) came out on DVD eight years ago and the Blu-ray upgrade released last week by Raro Video has been long overdue.

“The Conformist” is one of the most beautifully photographed movies ever made. Every shot is a work of art, with the style of lighting and composition changing as the film goes on, switching from stationary to gracefully moving camera shots, all reflecting the changes in the characters and the story. This is the film that made the international reputations of both Bertolucci and cinematographer Vittorio Storaro, both of whom were about 30 at the time. Many consider it the best work of both, although they later went on to win the most fame with their 1988 Academy Awards sweep for “The Last Emperor” (1987). Bertolucci did get an Oscar nomination for his screenplay to “The Conformist” however (based on the 1951 novel by Alberto Moravia), and another directing nomination for “Last Tango in Paris.” Storaro later earned Oscars for shooting “Apocalypse Now” and “Reds.”

Although “The Conformist” is a visual treat to watch from beginning to end, as a film it might be considered more “interesting” than entertaining. Its metaphoric psychological, sexual, political, religious and historical implications gain more upon reflection and repeat viewings (and especially after going through the enclosed booklet and viewing the bonus documentary). The story follows a man in 1930s Italy who wants nothing more than to fit in with the rest of society. He feels he is somehow different from everyone else, and he is uncomfortable that he may not seem “normal” to others.

Through some innovative flashbacks (graciously attributed by Bertolucci to his editor Franco Arcalli) we gradually discover the reason is connected to a traumatic childhood experience. To compensate, he has joined the popular Fascist party, and even though politically ambivalent he goes to the extreme of joining the Italian secret police to hunt down anti-fascist nonconformists. As the film begins, he is assigned to “neutralize” his once-admired former college philosophy professor, now an expatriate political activist living in Paris and married to the free-thinking girl he himself had reluctantly rejected in favor of a safely conformist bourgeois marriage.

The film recreates the art-deco era of Fascist Italy through the fall of Mussolini, yet Bertolucci was born in 1941 so did not know the period from first-hand experience. He instead filters much of the angst of the 1968-70 political turmoil through the styles of classic 1930s-40s cinema he so much admired, making his story as much a metaphor for contemporary life as a critical examination of the past. As such, now even further removed from the time it depicts, the plot and characters can easily apply to early 21st-century issues.

Jean-Louis Trintignant heads a strong cast as the troubled anti-hero who tries to sleepwalk through life, unmoved by his own decisions until a fateful discovery prompts a realization that makes everything sink in. The striking and sexy Dominique Sanda has some of the most memorable scenes in the film, including a scandalous and symbolic tango with Stefania Sandrelli. The restored four-minute “dance of the blind” sequence almost serves as a miniature allegorical summary of the entire film. (Deleted before the original release, this section has no English-dubbed dialogue, so plays in Italian with subtitles if the English track is selected.)

Raro Video’s HD video transfer from the 35mm negative (at 1.66:1) may look slightly soft, but this seems to be inherent to the original film stocks, as there is a very cinematic appearance of film grain throughout. Colors are rich, beautifully reproducing Storaro’s stylized, mood-evoking palette. The lossless PCM audio serves well both the dialogue and the wonderful score by Georges Delerue. The disc includes the original Italian soundtrack as well as an English-dubbed option and optional English subtitles. The Italian track is preferred but either audio track works well, as actors spoke in different languages and were dubbed into either Italian or English. Translation differences between the dubbing and subtitles are sometimes interesting to note.

Bonus features are sparse but worthwhile. Unfortunately there is no audio commentary, but there’s a 28-page booklet packed with information, interviews and analytical essays with a variety of interpretations, revealing various allusions and in-jokes. On the disc is a recent (2011) hour-long documentary called “In the Shade of the Conformist,” featuring sometimes dry analysis of the film and an extensive interview with Bertolucci (in standard-definition), as well as the original 1970 and 2014 U.S. trailers in HD (though the 1970 trailer has severely faded).

THE CONFORMIST on Blu-ray – Movie: A \ Video: A- / Audio: A / Extras: B-

Recently in:

By Maddie Robinsonmaddierobi.mr@gmail.com This article discusses topics related to mental health and suicide. If you or someone you know is struggling or in crisis, help is available. Call or text 988 or visit 988lifeline.org. …

Need more events? Check out our July 2024 and August 2024 calendars. (They're cleverly split up to save you some scrolling.)MaySpring CrowsNow - June 28, Spirit Room, FargoForty artists display works centered around a crow theme.…

June 2211 a.m - 3 p.m. and 3- 6 p.m.Words To Live By Bookstore819 Center Avenue, MoorheadThe Moorhead Friends Writing Group (MFWG) is a group of 40 writers in 13 states and Canada. They have recently published their third…

The WFF Unified School District?By John Strandjas@hpr1.com Both the Fargo and West Fargo School Districts are strategizing their futures. This is necessary, because of immensely challenging financial and geopolitical changes facing…

By Ed Raymondfargogadfly@gmail.comShould ‘The Chosen One’ be Sentenced to Spend Months at each Level?It’s not unusual on this planet, we have had hundreds of men and a couple of women who have used religion to become…

By Rick Gionrickgion@gmail.com Holiday wine shopping shouldn’t have to be complicated. But unfortunately it can cause unneeded anxiety due to an overabundance of choices. Don’t fret my friends, we once again have you covered…

By Rick Gionrickgion@gmail.com In this land of hotdish and ham, the knoephla soup of German-Russian heritage seems to reign supreme. In my opinion though, the French have the superior soup. With a cheesy top layer, toasted baguette…

HPR chats with Bob Carpenter of the Nitty Gritty Dirt BandBy Sabrina Hornungsabrina@hpr1.com When asked if it was fair to consider the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band as “the godfathers of contemporary Americana” during our interview,…

Now playing at the Fargo Theatre.By Greg Carlson gregcarlson1@gmail.comPalme d’Or recipient “Anatomy of a Fall” is now enjoying an award-season victory tour, recently picking up Golden Globe wins for both screenplay and…

New Minnesota sculptures include artist’s largest trollBy Sabrina Hornungsabrina@hpr1.com According to Danish artist and environmental activist Thomas Dambo, “All trash is treasure.” So far, he and his team have built 138…

By John Showalterjohn.d.showalter@gmail.comHigh Plains Reader had the opportunity to interview two mysterious new game show hosts named Milt and Bradley Barker about an upcoming event they will be putting on at Brewhalla. What…

By Annie Prafckeannieprafcke@gmail.com AUSTIN, Texas – As a Chinese-American, connecting to my culture through food is essential, and no dish brings me back to my mother’s kitchen quite like hotdish. Yes, you heard me right –…

By Sabrina Hornungsabrina@hpr1.comNew Jamestown Brewery Serves up Local FlavorThere’s something delicious brewing out here on the prairie and it just so happens to be the newest brewery west of the Red River and east of the…

By John Showalter  john.d.showalter@gmail.comThey sell fentanyl test strips and kits to harm-reduction organizations and…

JANUARY 19, 1967– MARCH 8, 2023 Brittney Leigh Goodman, 56, of Fargo, N.D., passed away unexpectedly at her home on March 8, 2023. Brittney was born January 19, 1967, to Ruth Wilson Pollock and Donald Ray Goodman, in Hardinsburg,…

By Jim Fugliejimfuglie920@gmail.com I am an old man. I have been a politics junkie most of my life. I have been involved in many campaigns, but have not run for office myself. Each time someone has suggested I do that, I tell them…