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A weak-willed Italian man becomes a fascist flunky who goes abroad to arrange the assassination of his old teacher, now a political dissident.
For more about The Conformist and the The Conformist Blu-ray release, see the The Conformist Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on February 21, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Director: Bernardo Bertolucci
Writers: Bernardo Bertolucci, Alberto Moravia
Starring: Jean-Louis Trintignant, Stefania Sandrelli, Gastone Moschin, Enzo Tarascio, Fosco Giachetti, José Quaglio
» See full cast & crew
The Conformist Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, February 21, 2012
Winner of David di Donatello Award for Best Film, Bernardo Bertolucci's "Il conformista" a.k.a. "The Conformist" (1970) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of British distributors Arrow Films. The supplemental features on the disc include an audio commentary by Italian cinema expert David Forgacs and "Bernardo Bertolucci: Reflections on Cinema", a feature-length documentary produced for Italian TV. The Blu-ray also arrives with a comprehensive booklet featuring brand new writing on the film by critic Michael Atkinson, a re-printed interview with Bernardo Bertolucci from 1971, and the Italian director's thoughts on the filmmaking illustrated with original stills. In Italian, with optional English subtitles for the main feature. Region-B "locked".
Rome, 1938. Marcello Clerici (Jean-Louis Trintignant, So Sweet...So Perverse, Le Combat dans l'ile) has started working for the Fascist secret police. His first assignment is to assassinate his old professor (Enzo Tarascio, The Designated Victim), a passionate communist and leader of an influential anti-fascist group who now lives in exile in Paris.
Marcello arrives in Paris with the beautiful but naïve Giulia (Stefania Sandrelli, The Nymph, Seduced and Abandoned), who is under the assumption that the two will be celebrating their honeymoon. He quickly arranges to meet the professor, who admits that he does not remember much about him.
During the meeting it becomes clear that years ago Marcello was one of the professor's brightest students. Like him, he also sympathized with the communists but never attempted to join them. Knowing that Marcello has become a fascist, the professor attempts to understand why.
By the end of the meeting Marcello is already madly in love with Anna (Dominique Sanda, A Room in Town, Novecento), the professor's stunningly beautiful wife, who realizes that she could easily manipulate him if she wanted. Later on, the two meet and make love, but both realize that their lives are heading in completely different directions. Like her husband, Anna is also a communist but willing to compromise with her beliefs if she must.
While Marcello tries to gather the courage to kill the professor, flashbacks from his childhood reveal a disturbing experience with a homosexual chauffeur (Pierre Clémenti, I Cannibali, Belle de jour). The outcome of this experience partially reveals how Marcello's life philosophy was shaped.
Based on Alberto Moravia's famous novel, Bernardo Bertolucci's The Conformist is one of the greatest films of the '70s. It is incredibly dark, frightening, remarkably cruel yet indescribably beautiful film.
The film is not so much about Marcello's mission to Paris as it is about various people caught in a labyrinth of ideas – there are fascists, communists, predators, traitors, idealists, and executioners who try to find a way out of it and in the process discover who they truly are. The film is particularly good in revealing their feelings and moods through beautiful images as they confront and learn about each other.
Marcello, of course, is the conformist, the most dangerous type, a man who joins with the stronger side not because he genuinely supports its cause, but because for the moment it is the only way to conform. Then, later on, after Mussolini's government falls, he predictably turns its back on it.
From all the legendary films the great Vittorio Storaro lensed during the years, his work in The Conformist is undoubtedly his best. The lensing is so beautiful that at times it actually becomes distracting, seriously preventing one from concentrating on the fractured narrative. The use of color, in particular, is incredibly original.
Trintignant is superb as the spiritually paralyzed and consumed by anger Marcello. There are numerous close-ups in the film where the camera looks straight into his eyes and one immediately realizes how powerful the demons he struggles with are. The beautiful Sandrelli and Sanda are also terrific. Clementi has a small but memorable cameo.
The Conformist is complimented by an outstanding soundtrack courtesy of the great French composer Georges Delerue (Hiroshima Mon Amour, Le mépris, L' important c'est d'aimer).
The Conformist Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.66:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Bernardo Bertolucci's The Conformist arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of British distributors Arrow Films.
I am underwhelmed by the presentation. The press materials I was sent indicate that the high-definition transfer was apparently sourced from a HD restoration of the film supervised by cinematographer Vittorio Storaro, but I find it difficult to believe that this is the definitive presentation of the film that we will have for years to come. I also must speculate that this restoration isn't the new restoration of The Conformist Raro Video in Italy had access to.
I did a number of direct comparisons with my R1 DVD and detail is indeed more convincing on the Blu-ray release. Clarity is also improved, especially during close-ups. Contrast levels have been stabilized, though not as well as I hoped they would be. A lot of these upgrades, however, have more to do with the fact that the R1 DVD release is extremely problematic - it is overwhelmed by very heavy macroblocking patterns and random noise, and plagued by various specks and damage marks - rather than the high-definition transfer being exceptionally strong.
Early into the film there are small stability issues (right around the 15-minute mark the image becomes jumpy). There are also various compression artifacts, some of which could be quite persistent (see screencaptures #5 and 19). Healthy film grain is barely noticeable, and the little that has been retained is actually mixed with moderate doses of light noise and often covered by artifacts. All of this makes the image rather shaky, often times looking a lot softer than it should be.
The relatively good news is that there are no traces of severe denoising - but the dated master the high-definition transfer was struck from was already filtered (more than likely because it was prepared with DVD in mind). There are no traces of post-production sharpening either. Finally, color reproduction is far superior here - the wonderful light browns and especially the heavy neon blues that appear in some of the romantic sequences look quite rich, even well saturated, while on the R1 DVD release they essentially collapse.
To sum it all up, the Blu-ray release certainly represents an upgrade in quality over the old R1 DVD release Paramount Pictures issued in 2006, but I expected a lot more. The Conformist is one of five films (the other four are Michelangelo Antonioni's L'Avventura and L'Eclisse, Federico Fellini's La Dolce Vita, and Leos Carax's Les amants du Pont-Neuf) that I have been wishing to have on Blu-ray ever since the high-definition format was launched, and I just wanted this release to be flawless. Clearly, it is not.
(Note: This is a Region-B "locked" Blu-ray disc. Therefore, you must have a native Region-B or Region-Free PS3 or SA in order to access its content).
The Conformist Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There is only one audio track on this Blu-ray disc: Italian LPCM 2.0. For the record, Arrow Films have provided optional English subtitles for the main feature.
The Italian loseless track has a decent but unexceptional dynamic range. This is not to say, however, that there are serious technical limitations that could have been avoided. With the exception of the beautiful melodies composed by Georges Delerue, there simply isn't a lot of dynamic movement. The dialog is stable and easy to follow, but some light background hiss occasionally creeps in. The new English subtitles are far better than the old ones found on the R1 DVD.
The Conformist Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The Conformist Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
The Blu-ray release of Bernardo Bertolucci's epic The Conformist represents a step up in quality over the old R1 DVD release Paramount Pictures issued back in 2006, but I expected a lot more. Clearly, the high-definition transfer the Blu-ray uses was struck from a dated source, and it shows. Unfortunately, I think that this might be the best English-friendly presentation of the film we would see because the Italian Blu-ray release by Raro Video is seriously compromised, and because I highly doubt that Paramount Pictures are likely to produce a superior Blu-ray release any time soon, considering that even during the heyday of DVD the studio was reluctant to touch the film. I am also reluctant to recommend this Blu-ray release, but for the time being it is certainly the most organic presentation of the film there is on the market. RECOMMENDED.
The Conformist: Other Editions
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The Conformist Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Bernardo Bertolucci's The Conformist Detailed - January 13, 2012
Independent British distributors Arrow Films have officially announced and detailed their upcoming Dual Format Edition of Italian director Bernardo Bertolucci's Il conformista a.k.a The Conformist(1970), starring Jean-Louis Trintignant (Three Colours Trilogy: Red) ...
• The Conformist Heading to the UK - September 26, 2011
Independent British distributors Arrow Films have revealed that they will release a Dual Format Edition of Bernardo Bertolucci's Il conformista a.k.a The Conformist, starring Jean-Louis Trintignant and Stefania Sandrelli. In 1970, the film won Interfilm Award - ...
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