Monday, December 20, 2010

The Conformist

What is normalcy—in the human being, and in the philosophical perception of reality that is the theoretical underpinning of Bertolucci’s masterpiece The Conformist (1970), currently in revival at Film Forum? Professor Luca Quadri (Enzo Tarascio), the doomed anti-fascist, is the quarry of Marcello Clerici (Jean-Louis Trintignant), whose name resonates the search for clarity. Quadri had taught Clerici the allegory of Plato’s cave when Clerici was Quadri’s student, and an initial scene in which they are reunited literally depicts the shadows disappearing from the wall. But the whole style of the film, in which seeming realism is belied by a complex storyline made up of time shifts and flashbacks, also puts the viewer into the point of view of Clerici, whose attempt to rid his life of ambiguity about both his sexuality (he’d had an early homosexual experience with the family chauffeur) and upbringing (he’d been brought up by a drug addicted mother) leads him to seek the illusion of normalcy through joining the fascist party. What then is being normal? At one point Clerici’s blind fascist comrade tells him normalcy is gazing at a woman’s bottom and then going to bars and other gathering places where like-minded men gather. Georges Delerue’s haunting score, the magnificent beaux arts settings, rendered by the great production designer Ferdinando Scarfiotti, and the astonishing work of the famed Bertolucci cinematographer Vittorio Storaro in making Clerici an iconographic almost architectural presence—his fedora-clad silhouette, shot from the back along the narrow corridor of a Paris hotel—all contribute to this great monument to the trompe l’oeil nature of both the political and personal worlds.


  1. Welcome to the "NO Normal"....

  2. Peloni, are you not sure you don't mean the Noh Normal, a new form of Japanese drama? Love SP


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