1001 Films - The Ice Storm (1997) / The Conformist (1970)

I’ve now logged three films into my 1001 film challenge.

Last week, the random number generator pulled up films 955 The Ice Storm and 536 The Conformist.

The former was a boring and shocking Ang Lee film that reminded me that Kevin Kline is a person who exists. Whenever I mentioned on stream that I was watching this movie, some of the chat remarked, “Isn’t that the movie with Christina Ricci?”

I didn’t understand why they asked that.

Now I do.

And yes, it’s that movie with Christina Ricci.

It’s very disturbing in general. From beginning to end, the film is slow, methodical, and pointless. It’s a book-like journey exploring the dismantling of a suburbanite upper class family. Except, unlike the novel version, it doesn’t allow for any real depth into the motivations behind the characters. I’m still not sure what drove Kevin Kline to do anything he did. I’m still not sure what we were supposed to learn from Sigourney Weaver’s character at all.

Occasionally in the film the characters themselves will question each other’s actions and not have an answer. This feels like a clear thing for the cast, the writers, and the audience watching - there is no answer. I’d have to go below the standard review and give this one a 6/10.

All in all, this film was a case study that interesting cinematography and a phenomenal cast don't make a good story. If the script itself is obtuse, then the story will remain that way in the end.

This was also the case for The Conformist.

This 1970 film from Bernardo Bertolucci has been revered as his magnum opus and it’s clear why this might be.

This Fascist commentary faux noir film is engaging and curious. It’s a story told out of order, also known as a non-linear story. This was likely the most interesting aspect of the story, unfortunately.

I can imagine that seeing this film in its context, the scandal must have been so much more powerful. The tension, the eroticism, the anti-Fascist rhetoric, the exploration of a man in pursuit of self-discovery - it’s all there and it’s all done well.

Folks more impacted by Mussolini would have been certainly more susceptible to the wiles of the film. Earlier generations discomfort with homosexuality would have also been shifting in their seats with the story being told.

But, in today’s context, I’m not sure if the story provides enough for the dramatically high ranking that viewers have given it. With a 100% on Metacritic and a 98% on Rotten Tomatoes, I am (unsurprisingly) continuing to lean with the IMDb folks at more of a 7/10ish.

I wonder if a current iteration of this film might be interesting. The story being told is a fairly universal one. Who doesn’t inspire normalcy? The main characters' conflict of self and imposter syndrome make for a compelling narrator. I didn’t trust our MC from the first minute that I saw him.

Perhaps my less-than-stellar review of both of these films is my abundant desire for nonconformity and hope. I’m not naturally inclined to the despair present in The Ice Storm. Nor am I naturally inclined to the deceit and lies of The Conformist.

A fine example of this would be that I might see myself more in the shoes of the to-be-assassinated Professor Quadri. Especially with lines like, “Clerici (the main character) is a fascist. I'm an anti-fascist. We both knew. And we decided to have supper together all the same.”

Having supper with the sinners is kind of ‘my thing.’ I’m afraid that puts our conflicted Conformist on the naughty list in my book.

Onto the next one! 3 down, 998 to go.


March 31st, 2022