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And God Created Jean-Louis Trintignant

Thursday, April 18, 2013
7:00 p.m. The Conformist
Bernardo Bertolucci (Italy, 1970)

It’s impossible to imagine a more perfect match of a performer’s strength, a filmmaker’s sensibility and rich, complex material. David Fear, Time Out New York

With The Conformist, Bertolucci was anything but, distinguishing himself with a sumptuous masterpiece that delves into the clash between repressed guilt and political acquiescence. The titular “conformist,” Marcello Clerici is a suave intellectual who has risen through the ranks of Mussolini’s fascist government. A long sublimated molestation has driven him to seek “the impression of normalcy,” so he forfeits all moral value in the pursuit of anonymity. When he is sent to Paris to organize the assassination of his former mentor, an antifascist professor, Clerici must confront his tortured past. Bertolucci’s chilling study of the fascist personality is told through flashbacks refracting as though through a faceted gemstone. The accumulating story is re-collected via an exacting design of Art Deco excess, disorienting scale, and uncanny lighting. Clerici (portrayed by Jean-Louis Trintignant with unnerving control) is captive to an interior inertia reflected by these strident surroundings. Throughout his films, Bertolucci has perused the interplay of moral convention and psychological failing. The Conformist breaks with the norm in its lavish condemnation of follow-the-leader.

—Steve Seid

• Written by Bertolucci, based on the novel by Alberto Moravia. Photographed by Vittorio Storaro. With Jean-Louis Trintignant, Stefania Sandrelli, Dominique Sanda, Pierre Clémenti. (116 mins, In Italian with English subtitles, Color, 35mm, From Paramount Pictures)