Watching ‘The Conformist’ and listening to the commentary, took me back to the book and the DVD of ‘Easy Riders, Raging Bulls’ – the seminal account by Peter Biskind of the rise of the New Hollywood and the Movie Brats of the 1960s and 1970s. [The book was first published in 2008 and the documentary, directed by Kenneth Bowser and narrated by William H. Macy, came out in 2003]. Both still stand up although much has happened to the participants in the story since that time. Dennis Hopper has died, for instance.
The link with ‘The Conformist’, released in 1970, comes when the commentary quotes Paul Schrader, who says of it:
‘It’s a real filmmakers film. Screening this film is almost like re-checking the dictionary. Its just how you can do things. ‘The Conformist’ is the first gunshot in the revolution back to visual style in American films. You saw that in films by Coppola and Scorsese. Bernardo wrote the bible and we all paced through it.’
In Biskind’s book, which carries many passages which dwell on Schrader’s tortured upbringing, violent fantasies, drug use and abuse of friends and lovers, Schrader again pays homage to Bertolucci in his own unique way.
‘Everyone was under the sway of Bernardo Bertolucci’s ‘The Conformist’. Continues Schrader: “You looked at Bertolucci, it was just like he took Godard and Antonioni, put them in bed together, held a gun to their heads, and said, ‘You guys fuck or I’ll shoot you.’ ”
Bertolucci’s Director of Photography on ‘The Conformist’ and many other of his films was Vittorio Storaro. Coppola imitated many of the shots from this film in ‘The Godfather’ movies as well as copying much of the general look and style. He later hired Storaro to make ‘Apocalypse Now’ for which Storaro won his first Oscar. Bertolucci and Coppola became friends in the run-up to and during the making of Godfather 1. Brando went straight from making the Godfather to working for Bertolucci on ‘Last Tango in Paris.’ Bertolucci offered De Niro a part in ‘1900’ after seeing Scorsese’s ‘Mean Streets’
These connections are further explored in ‘Why Bertolucci’s ‘The Conformist’ deserves a place in cinema history.’ by John Patterson on The Guardian film blog.
Discovered this great piece on Bertolucci, written by MANOHLA DARGIS for the New York Times in December 2010 to coincide with a major retrospective of his work at MOMA in New York featuring virtually everything he had ever made. When the retro came to the BFI in London four months later, David Gritten did this interview with Bertolucci for The Telegraph