Thursday, 7th December, pm

176.V: B. Bertolucci: Il Conformisto, 1970, colour, wide screen, mono, from BBC2 broadcast, January 2001, 107′18″

The Conformist has recently been issued and acclaimed as a DVD. America is seeing the film uncut for the first time but I think it is true to say that Europe has always seen it complete. Despite some misleadingly long running times cited, I think 111 minutes in the cinema and 107 on PAL is as long as it gets.

I had remembered the picture as extremely stylish but had forgotten quite how dazzlingly stylized it is. Memory suggested a perverse and serious drama but on this occasion it felt more like a very black comedy. Trintignant, as the nobody who hopes to become more real by devoting himself to the Fascist cause, sits somewhere between Delon’s Samoura├» and the hapless victims of 1984 or Brazil. Storaro’s exploitation of monumental architecture has never been surpassed: it would be a crime to omit the contribution of the cinematography to this picture. Not art concealing art but rather serving to underline and undermine the brittle surfaces of that art deco nightmare.

One odd detail seems to nudge us into an awareness that we are witnessing a comedy: a post-card of Laurel & Hardy is fixed to the window of the Parisian dance-hall. Why Laurel & Hardy, though?