Bernardo Bertolucci’s latest writer-director stint, a free adaptation of Alberto Moravia’s book The Conformist, is a click from start to finish.
Basically, it’s the story of a coward, one of the thousands (millions?) who have, for self-aggrandizement or mere safe-playing self-preservation, ‘conformed’ to the transient ideological dictates of their times.
Marcello (Jean-Louis Trintignant) is such a coward. Just married (also a compromise), he’s sent to Paris by the Fascist espionage organization he’s joined and ordered to murder a leftist political refugee he once studied under in college, but procrastinates, his mind riddled with doubts and fears, his body attracted by the intended victim’s pretty wife who, possibly to save her husband’s life, seduces both Marcello and his bride.
Performances are first-rate down to smallest role, with Trintignant reliable as ever in a tailor-made role, Stefania Sandrelli excellent as his wide-eyed middle-class wife, and Dominique Sanda a definite screen presence of considerable promise as the other woman.
Pic is somewhat slow here and there and could stand some trimming to tighten and heighten. Windup is likewise redundant, and the weakest factor in an otherwise very satisfying powerful film.