DVD Reviews: The Conformist and 1900

The Conformist Extended Edition Paramount
Movie •••• Picture/Sound •••• Sound ••• Extras •••
1900 Paramount
Movie •••½ Picture/Sound ••••½ Sound ••• Extras ••
These two Bernardo Bertolucci classics from the director's glory years have finally been released on DVD, and they both look fantastic. The Conformist (1970) is a noirish tale of the moral corruption under the Fascists in Italy. Its amazingly sensuous evocation of 1930s Rome and Paris is rendered in lustrous colors and well-defined lighting contrasts (although there are one or two scenes that seem a little overexposed).

Bertolucci's 1900 (1976) - starring Robert De Niro, Gérard Depardieu, Burt Lancaster, and Donald Sutherland - is a beautiful, wildly uneven chronicle of the struggle between Communist farmers and Fascist landowners, covering 45 years of Italian history. It achieves its full epic scope in this unrated 5-hour-plus original cut (spread over two discs), and its painterly images are even clearer and richer in detail than those in The Conformist.

Both films' clear mono soundtracks are seamless blends of dialogue, effects, and music. The Conformist's Italian track features the most convincing dubbing, while the English one is marginally preferable for 1900 because of its American stars and the fact that it's in surround. Both DVDs offer new video segments of Bertolucci and cinematographer Vittorio Storaro discussing their work, offering a good amount of interesting information in a short time. The Conformist: [R] Italian, English, French, and Portuguese, Dolby Digital 2-channel mono; letterboxed (1.66:1) and anamorphic widescreen; dual layer. 1900: [NR] English, Dolby Surround; Italian and French, Dolby Digital 2-channel mono; letterboxed (1.78:1) and anamorphic widescreen; two dual-layer discs.

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