Director Bernardo Bertolucci is famous for films like Novecento, Last Tango In Paris and The Last Emperor. Many people believe that his best film, however, is his less well-known thriller The Conformist (Il Conformista). This title has been recently reissued and can now been seen in its full glory. The story is set at the end of the 1930’s, when Italy is labouring under the yoke of Mussolini’s Fascist regime.
Marcello is an ambitious professor who is wrestling demons from his past. In his youth, he once shot a man dead. What’s more, he is confused about his sexuality. Fearful of being ‘different’, he decides to live his life as conformistly as possible. He marries Giulia and joins the Fascist party. He soon receives an assignment from the secret police. He is required to kill his former teacher, Professor Quadri, the leader of the anti-fascist resistance movement. As Quadri has fled to France, Marcello plans to combine his assignment with his honeymoon in Paris. Having arrived in France, he begins to have doubts. On top of this, he becomes enchanted by Anna, Quadri’s lovely young wife. What follows next is a brilliantly told and acted intrigue, in which the vacillating Marcello is cornered by one of Mussolini’s secret agents.
This dramatic thriller is full of Vittorio Storaro’s magnificent photography. He plays with light and shadow in a breath-taking way, reaching an indisputable climax with a spine-chilling pursuit scene in a forest. It’s wonderful that this great film is again being shown in cinemas, re-issued by the EYE Film Museum, in a digitally restored version.