The Conformist – cancel culture & Fascism

Bernardo Bertolucci’s 1970 masterpiece, adapted from the 1951 Alberto Moravia novel is a case study in conformism under a Fascist regime. The film stars Jean-Louis Trintignant as Marcello Clerici, a conformist mid-level Fascist functionary in Mussolini’s Italy who is ordered to assassinate his former professor, an antifascist dissident in Paris. The 4K restored version opens on April 25 in selected cinemas (see below).

Isn’t there something familiar here… refusing to conform in today’s virulently woke West risks career and social assassination by functionaries of the woke, ‘assassins’ in our midst? At one stage Clerici is in the confessional and tells the priest, “I belong to an organisation that hunts down subversives.” Antifa would welcome him … if only he weren’t such a square.

With music by the acclaimed Georges Delerue and the superb, underlit and ever inventive, dramatic cinematography of Vittorio Storaro (both in the process of making a name for themselves), it is a significant milestone of cinema. The film’s impact is due in large part to the work of these two creatives. Striking production design often evokes the period in grand flourishes, but almost every scene is astonishing in some way.

The strong, beguiling (and erotic) female supporting cast (Stefania Sandrelli, Dominique Sanda) is terrific and the great Trintignant is as wonderful as he was four years earlier opposite Anouk Aimee, in the world-sweeping romance, A Man and A Woman, directed by Claude Lelouch….and featuring that unforgettable music by Francis Lai.

The political setting – as Mussolini’s dictatorship is coming to an end – and the personal, often sensual, private story, told with cinematic class, reminds of the power of the movies before much of it went woke.

Bertolucci (1941 – 2018) went on to make other cinematic milestones, including Last Tango in Paris (1972) with Marlon Brando and Maria Schneider and The Last Emperor (1987) with John Lone, Peter O’Toole and Australia’s Joan Chen. Bertolucci outraged Italy and was ‘cancelled’ for Last Tango in Paris (labelled obscene), losing his voting rights for five years. Simultaneously, he was nominated for an Oscar as was Brando.

Alberto Moravia (1907 – 1990) was an Italian journalist, short-story writer, and novelist known for his fictional portrayals of social alienation and loveless sexuality. The Conformist is a good example. He was a major figure in 20th-century Italian literature.

THE CONFORMIST (1970) 1h 53m
From 25 April, 2024
Classic, Lido, Cameo & Ritz Cinemas
Tickets on sale

Andrew L. Urban was the editor of Australia’s award winning online movie magazine, Urban Cinefile, 1997 – 2017.

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One Response to The Conformist – cancel culture & Fascism

  1. Peter versi says:

    Hi Andrew. In Fahrenheit 451 firemen burnt books . In Germany , firstly they burnt books , then they burnt people. Fascism is not just an ideology or system of the far right. Extremism can come out of the alternative extreme. Dictators exist in our midst. The left is not only trying to dictate what we say , but what we think. Not being permitted to have a view out of line with the presiding establishment is just another fascist ideology. It’s masked by the inference that dictating our words and thoughts are in the public interest.
    There is an antichrist …. An ultimate fascist ! Can you guess who ?
    Regards Pv

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