June 21, 2011

Il conformista (Italy 1970)

"Il conformista" is widely regarded as one of the best films of Bernardo Bertolucci and is one where many of his themes can be found. It was also the film that established his reputation as one of the most visually arresting directors. The great cinematography by Vittorio Storario does stand out and is at times breathtaking in a way that it almost destracts from the film. The inventive camerawork seems to express all the emotions that the uptight main character suppresses. One gets the feeling that Bertolucci wanted the film to look as unconventional as possible to enhance this contrast.

This lack of sublety might also be the reason why I do not regard Bertolucci as an absolute master and "Il conformista" an absolute masterpiece. It is evident that - as opposed to, let's say, Antonioni - he makes films with his heart and not with his brains. This does not mean that he is not an intelligent director - it is just that for Bertolucci the art of cinema stands above everything else, even his own characters. It must be allowed to pose the question what remains of the film when all the opulence and visual splendor is subtracted.

The performance of Jean-Louis Trintignant maybe, which is one of the best of his entire career. Himself the son of a wealthy industrialist, he perfectly embodies the bourgeois opportunist with his ordinary yet refined and slightly arrogant look. But he displays something else too: the inner despair of the character that is hidden beneath the neat surface. This is the kind of sophisticated subtlety that Bertolucci could use some of.

But it might very well be that what he ultimately wanted to say with his film is
"Look at me, I am not a conformist."


"A Serious Man": Jean-Louis Trintignant

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