#138- The Conformist

Quick recap: A spy has been given the task of assassinating an Anti-Fascist, who happens to have been a mentor of his.


Fun (?) fact: I got nothing. For a movie so aesthetically pleasing and for something so complex, I was expecting a bevy of information but all IMDb gave me was the Italian Censorship Visa # (56307 for all my censorship visa nerds. I know y’all LIVE for that kind of stuff)

seriously. This movie is beautiful. It's an art form all by itself

seriously. This movie is beautiful. It’s an art form all by itself

My thoughts: First of all, hi everyone! I’m back from my month long hiatus where I participated (and won) NaNaWriMo. A good time was had by all.

I wanted to ease back into this blog with a comedy or something that I could make fun of easily but this was next on the list, so here we are: The Conformist. The title itself is a whole philosophical discussion about man’s true need to conform to society and especially political beliefs. Or something like that. Marcello Clerici, the main character ,is a Fascist because that’s just what many powerful people in Italy were, but he ultimately failed to conform because he couldn’t carry out his duties as a member of the secret police. Or something like that.

even insane asylums are beautiful

even insane asylums are beautiful

As beautiful as the film was, the non-linear storyline was confusing, especially in the beginning ,but I got used to it about halfway through. Clerici shares a flashback in the beginning of the film where he talks about being bullied by neighborhood boys because his family was wealthy. A chauffer befriends him and then tries to sexually assault him. Clerici shoots him and is able to escape. At the end of the film, as Mussolini has fallen, Marcello walks around with another Fascist pal and comes across Lino, the guy he thought he had killed. He suddenly freaks out and starts labeling everyone around him as a Fascist and implicates them in the murder of the professor and his wife. Director Bernard Bertolucci implies that the only reason Clerici is a Fascist is because of childhood sexual trauma and repressed homosexual urges, which is a pretty damning statement but not really how that kind of thing works.

By far, the best part of the scene is the murder of the professor and his wife, who Clerici has fallen in love with. Prior to the assassination, he warned Anna to stay in France but she didn’t listen. When her husband is stabbed to death (by a gang of spies and it takes FOREVER) she runs out of the car for help. She sees Clerici in the car and starts screaming because that’s pretty messed up, but he just sits there and lets her get murdered. It’s such a dark part of the movie that it is hard to believe that this movie was released in 1970.

Final review: 4/5. This is a complex movie that was way ahead of its time and certainly stands with more modern movies.

The Conformist 002

Up next: Farewell, My Concubine

#88- Salt of the Earth

Quick recap: A union group decides to go on strike against a zinc mining company in the early  50’s. The men striking face jail time, violence, scabs,  and worst of all- women, who take over after the workers are barred from entering the picketing line. Women are the WORST, you guys. The WORST.

The communists do have a point- children in jail are adorable.

The communists do have a point- children in jail are adorable.

Fun (?) fact: During filming, immigration officials arrested the lead actress, Rosaura Revueltas. She was deported to Mexico and a double had to be put in place to finish the movie. She was labeled a communist and couldn’t find much work afterwards.

accurate depiction of a modern day public school classroom, amiright? High five, anyone??

accurate depiction of a modern day public school classroom, amiright? High five, anyone??


My thoughts: It’s really hard to go wrong with a movie that has the distinction of being the only movie ever blacklisted. On the other hand, being brainwashed with propaganda gets tiresome after awhile. Salt of the Earth was basically made as a big ‘screw you’ to the US government, after its director, producer and writer were blacklisted for being alleged Communist sympathizers. In retaliation to the charges, the men set out to make the most Communist film ever created, so that they might have a movie ‘to fit the crime for which they were accused’.

It would be really silly of me to waste time critiquing a film that is by all accounts, propaganda. It would be like me holding the Taco Bell Twitter account to some literary expectation, when all they are there to do is sell waffle tacos. I could really use a waffle taco, by the way. Back to Salt of the Earth, the acting is stiff in some scenes and over emotional in the others. The plot, while based on a true story, was overall unbelievable and silly. The union workers were painted as full of hope and blameless while the police and owner of the plant were the very definition of evil. But none of this matters as long as the message is understood.

My husband watched the movie with me and afterward we had a discussion.

A: I’m pro-union, but at some point, after a year, it would be time to find a new job.

Me: But if everyone gave up, nothing would ever get done! Companies could get away with murder! And anyway, the union pooled its resources and shared with each other so everyone was ok.

A: I think you just argued in favor of communism.

Me.: Oh my god. I’m a communist.

Ok, so it didn’t go exactly like that, but I do admit to falling for the message a little bit. So in that respect, Salt of the Earth was a wild success. And when I look into the history of this movie, the government agrees with me. They ordered a boycott of the film and it was virtually kept hidden for 10 years, until women got wind of it. Although this wasn’t the main message, the feminism viewpoint is for me, the most interesting part. Esperanza, the main character, is married to a union leader whom many people look up to. Yet, after all the protesting he does, goes home and treats his wife pretty badly. He forbids her to participate in the picket line, even though she was the one who got it to happen. At some point, when things gets bad, she gets involved and transforms into a strong character. Her husband is left at home to watch the kids and take over housework duties. By the end of the film, he realizes how amazing his wife is and is truly grateful for her strength. Propaganda aside, I can get behind that.

Fight the man!

Fight the man!

Final review: 3/5. An interesting part of history, but not so interesting to sit through it again. I’d also prefer not to be blacklisted by liking this film in any way.

Up next: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon