Thursday, August 25, 2005

The Conformist (1971)

Bernardo Bertolucci's breakthrough film is, first off, a visual delight. The rich, saturated color scheme serve to heighten the artistic/dramatic thrust, and the camera is exactly where it needs to be at all times. This is quite possibly one of the most gorgeous films I've ever seen, and thankfully it's got more to offer than just pretty pictures. In telling the story of a man who allows himself to be swept along by the political tides of 1930s Italy, Bertolucci means to get at the root of why things like Mussolini happen. As one would expect, a film this carefully arranged has a lot going on symbollically as well -- there's the expected stuff (a group of blind Fascists) and the stuff that's been dissected at length (though I disagree with the popular Fascist/homosexual linkage, there's a strong essence of moral decay leading to political decay, as evinced by the character of Marcello's mother), but there's something else that struck me. If you pay attention to the way Bertolucci arranges his characters, there's a lot of parts where people get obscured by something in the foreground. (The scene in the park, where the camera blots out Manganiello by panning onto a tree, is the best example of this.) Could this mean something about Fascist/totalitarian societies and the loss of individuality within the citizens of said societies, so that they literally become faceless? Sounds convincing to me. Also, more needs to be said about the film's absurdist sense of humor -- in its heavy stylization and its gallows humor, one can see the influence that leads to, among other things, pretty much everything cinematic to come out of Bosnia and Serbia since the mid-90s. (Betcha Kusturica loves this movie.)

Grade: A-


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