(Just a single rule: mix-tape-style, no more than one film per director. You know, because otherwise the whole thing would be pointless.)
(#14) The Conformist
Drama • dir. Bernardo Bertolucci • 1970 • Italy
I’m a dad now, so seeing anything at the cinema requires military-grade planning. Back in the day, though, I remember the luxury of seeking out cinema trips involving not just films but filmmakers. Especially living in Boston, a great many nights out were simply too good to miss. Doing the promo rounds for Millions, Danny Boyle stopped by for a Q & A. A particularly vicious snowstorm thinned the audience, but for those of us who braved it he was his trademark jolly self. At the start of his tenure as a visiting professor at M.I.T., Michel Gondry talked mostly music videos one night. And south of the river in Brookline, the Coolidge Corner Theatre variously welcomed the legendary cinematographer Gordon Willis (The Godfather and Annie Hall both among his credits), the great documentarian (and local resident) Albert Maysles, and – perhaps less exciting for others, but thrilling for me – another local documentarian Ross McElwee. Over at Boston University meanwhile, I remember audiences with Alexander Payne (soon to win an Oscar for Sideways), Budd Schulberg (who wrote On the Waterfront back in 1954!), and the man who wrote the first three Pierce Brosnan Bond films.
By a distance, though, the one filmmaker who left the strongest impression was Vittorio Storaro, the three-time Oscar-winning cinematographer (his best-known film probably Apocalypse Now). In 2005, he had travelled from his home in Rome to accept the 2nd Annual Coolidge Award at the Coolidge Corner Theater. Without being in the least bit immodest, I believe he convinced every audience member of his genius. You’ll have to believe me, the man had an unmissable aura. He was self-assured and, clearly, had forgotten more about cinematography – writing with light, as he called it – than most other DPs will ever know. The Conformist is a film he shot back in 1970. Written and directed by that other Italian genius, Bernardo Bertolucci, it’s a thrilling and powerful indictment of fascism in the dog days of Mussolini. I’d recommend it for a dozen different reasons… But if I had to pick only one: I can’t think of a single other movie more beautifully shot. At the time, Storaro was 29 years old.