Back before Bertolucci’s films turned baggy and soggy, he used to direct trenchant and complex political thrillers – and 1970’s The Conformist found him at the top of his form. Adapted from a novel by Alberto Moravia, it’s set during Italy’s fascist period. Marcello, a young party functionary (Jean-Louis Trintignant at his most weaselly), is sent to Paris to set up the assassination of a prominent anti-fascist expat – his own old professor. Marcello’s a tormented figure – riven with doubts about his politics, his sexuality, and just where his loyalties lie – but Trintignant never plays him for our sympathy. Bertolucci juggles past and present with cool insouciance, and Vittorio Storaro’s cinematography adds a potent flavour of noir. Probing, unsettling and visually compelling, The Conformist treats its audience as adults, never opting for easy closure.
The Conformist review
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