Never has The Conformist been more timely. The new restoration of Bernardo Bertolucci’s 1970 masterpiece about a repressed Italian who becomes a fascist hitman is inspiring a lot of thoughtful journalism. “It’s not the ideology that attracts people to fascism,” writes Eric Alterman in the American Prospect. “It’s the permission it offers to ordinary people to behave like thugs.” In his recent New York Magazine/Vulture review, headlined “It’s Time to See The Conformist Again,” critic Bilge Ebiri describes the film as “one of the most visually ravishing pictures of all time.” Ebiri’s piece is well worth excerpting at some length:
“All great films, at some point, ask the question: Who am I? The greatest films go beyond asking this on a narrative level; through their very form, they embody the question of identity. And what makes Bernardo Bertolucci’s The Conformist (1970) the very greatest of movies isn’t just its staggering, legendary beauty, but its maze-like journey into its protagonist’s — and, by extension, its creator’s — mind.
“The Conformist has just been rereleased in a lovely new 4K restoration, which is certainly cause for celebration given that it’s one of the most visually ravishing pictures of all time. (It’s currently playing New York’s Film Forum, and will soon travel around the country.) There’s no real debate over Bertolucci’s achievement; this is one of those canonical titles whose place in history is a given at this point. You can see its influence in The Godfather series, in Taxi Driver, in movies as varied as Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters, Dick Tracy, Call Me by Your Name, and Clueless — and yet, it remains as startling and revolutionary as it was upon original release, in part because few filmmakers nowadays are willing to embrace the sensuous and the monstrous at the same time. You never quite know what you’re supposed to feel at any given moment of The Conformist, because it asks you to feel everything.”
Some praise from past years:
“Bertolucci’s boldest and most expressive film.” – Calum Marsh, Village Voice
“One of the greatest-looking movies ever made.” – Ben Sachs, Chicago Reader
“Bernardo Bertolucci is a master of turning harsh realities into free-flowing dreams and fantasies of sex and power into bracing, often uncomfortable moments of truth…The Conformist is perhaps his richest and most beautiful work.” – Max O’Connell, IndieWire