The Conformist

Bertolucci retro heats up the TIFF Cinematheque winter season

They're calling the series Fashion, Fascists and F**king: The Films of Bernardo Bertolucci and it's running at the TIFF Lightbox from January 6th to 23rd. This is good movie-watching news for two reasons. One, it's a complete retrospective of the Italian filmmaker's sexy and politically charged oeuvre and it's in Toronto direct from a run at the MoMA in New York last month. Two, awards season is upon us and the Cineplexes will keep re-screening the same old batch of Oscar contenders until everyone finally breaks down and sees The King's Speech.

I'm not a huge fan of Bertolucci's full catalogue, but an easy favourite here is The Conformist (1970), a must-see if you haven't already. Set in the late 1930's, it's a profound character piece that centers on an Italian fascist agent and his plans to assassinate his former professor, while honeymooning in France (and, of course, having an affair with the professor's dishy wife).

The most bang for your entertainment buck is the 245-minute (that's over 4 hours), 1900 (1976), a sweeping historical epic set in rural Italy. This film has it all - childhood, love, sex, alcoholism, death, war, revolution, murder, communists, and some nasty fascists (watch this exceptionally evil Donald Sutherland clip). But all of this is just a backdrop. 1900 is the story of a complicated friendship between Alfredo (a young Robert De Niro) and Olmo (an even younger Gérard Depardieu) born in vastly different social classes at the turn of the century.

Easy on the eyes, Bertolluci's last film The Dreamers (2003), stars Michael Pitt as an American student in Paris. He meets twins (a brother and sister) at the Cinémathèque Française. The trio spends weeks cooped up in their parent's apartment re-enacting film scenes and f**king while the student riots of 1968 kick off on the streets of Paris. I'd much rather recommend a little something called Partner (1968). It's a lesser-seen and semi-experimental gem described in the program book as "naked emulation of Godard's signature style circa La Chinoise" meets Fight Club.

Plus, yesterday, TIFF announced a ton of new programming for the remainder of its first full season in the Lightbox. In the next couple of months, expect to see Canada's Top Ten films, retrospectives on Arthur Penn, French actress Sandrine Bonnaire, Québécois director Denis Côté, an In Conversation With... Paul Haggis and, be still my beating heart, a Back to the '80s set including Back to the Future, Gremlins, The Princess Bride, The Goonies and The Last Starfighter.

Fashion, Fascists and F**king: The Films of Bernardo Bertolucci runs from January 6th to 23rd at the TIFF Bell Lightbox, 350 King Street West.

Still from The Conformist courtesy of the Film Reference Library.

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