Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Reel to Real #14: Dominique Sanda in "The Conformist"

I definitely have issues with the characterization of Anna, played by Dominique Sanda, in Bernardo Bertolucci's 1970 "The Conformist." Clearly bisexual, if not lesbian, Anna initially struts and poses in stereotypically butch fashion, but then submits to the film's cruel protagonist and even enters the hallowed ranks of cinema's "I was raped and liked it!" heroines. Bertolucci associates her bisexuality with rebellion (which seems a bit facile to me), and it serves to titillate the film's protagonist and audience.

But "The Conformist" is a film you remember mostly for its visuals, and damn if Anna's great wardrobe doesn't contribute its visual allure! The film takes place in the 1930s, and its styles are reproduced in the silhouettes of Anna's clothing.
When Anna dances seductively with the protagonist's wife, she wears a stunning white silk gown, bank plunging down and hair immaculately styled. She looks like perfect bourgeois lady, except she's seducing another woman.
I'm in love with the outfit in the above photo. It recalls 1930s actresses such as Marlene Dietrich and Katherine Hepburn who enjoyed wearing menswear, and thus adds to the film's period authenticity while also establishing (if unsuccessfully) Anna as tough and distinct. And check out those shoes! While the tie is supposed to read as butch, I like its nautical feel. Also note the shirt's billowy draping, held in at the middle by a silk belt. Amazing.
I also appreciated Anna's headwear, since modern day folks seem to have forgotten about hats. They really are a whole other aspect that can create an unforgettable image; we're really missing out by overlooking them! Also, does anyone else see a relation between the black veiled hat and the previous entry on Marlene Dietrich in "Shanghai Express"?
Though Anna's costumes are wonderfully reflective of a rich 30s woman, she does at one point sport dance clothes that seem very 80s but still somehow elegant

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