Tony Mastroianni Review Collection

"The Conformist" Is Tedious Film

Cleveland Press August 23, 1971

"The Conformist" is another of those movies that is admirable in every respect but one. It is tedious.

The period is the late 1930's and the place is Italy. Jean Louis Trintignant is a young man who wants something more than to be like everyone else, to be a conformist. He finds the answer to his desire in fascism where he can be one of a pack, where he can follow orders without thinking.

What he is running from in trying to lose himself are an aristocratic family, a drug-taking mother, a father who is in an insane asylum and a youthful homosexual encounter. Obviously in trying to be very ordinary he is living a lie from the outset.

He even picks for his wife a girl (Stefania Sandrelli) who is dull and vacuous.

During his honeymoon in Paris he is ordered to kill his one-time philosophy professor. He is attracted to the professor's pretty young wife who in turn is attracted to his wife.

Director and screenwriter Bernardo Bertolucci, in adapting the Alberto Moravia novel, has built his movie in layers. Bit by bit he reveals all though sometimes ambiguously and generally in a complex manner. The picture is a series of flashbacks, but don't look for a neat back-and-forth arrangement.

Trintignant turns in a brilliant performance as someone trying to be depersonalized. Others in the cast are equally good.

The picture's undoing is a slowness, a growing tedium. In trying to tell the story of a man who wants to be unextraordinary the director has tended to draw out his movie as though it too were unextraordinary.