Bernardo Bertolucci has always been one of the scant few directors to actually understand the art of eroticism. There's an irrepressible elegance in the way he films women and the way they look when they're just existing or preparing for a tryst with a lover. His early films have a way of stressing those flippant eyebrows and coy smiles over the quick glimpse of the nipple or (god forbid) full breasts. The lilting gasps and moans of lovers preparing and engaging in their blissfulness is a nervy symphony for his acutely shot images. Even now, 36 years after his best film and three years after his amicable The Dreamers, Bertolucci's films seem to careen with seduction in ways that no other filmmaker can possibly recreate. Though best known for Last Tango in Paris, The Conformist still holds as Bertolucci's most provocative work and a classic of Italian New Wave.
Marcello (the great Jean-Louis Trintignant) has a common yearning in his life, though he puts it much more bluntly than others would. Marcello wants to be normal. Normal as in Fascist, normal as in wife, children and government job, and, finally, normal in that he represses and attempts to forget all his dark dreams and past deeds. The charge from his hushed organization is to assassinate his old philosophy professor (Enzo Tarascio) in France while on a fake honeymoon with his "petty" wife, Giulia (Stefania Sandrelli, playing the part with a marvelous mixture of oblivious commitment and hollowed sexiness). While on assignment, he flirts and sneaks to hidden corners with the Anna (Dominique Sanda), the professor's volatile, anti-Fascist wife, and attempts to keep his agency contact (Gastone Moschin) happy.
Continue reading: The Conformist Review