July 22, 2010

MOVIE: The Leopard (Il Gattopardo)

I drank in every frame of this gorgeous movie. Every single scene is a marvel of sumptuous color compositions and exotic spectacles of Sicily in the 1800s. The latest Criterion restoration is absolutely crisp and immaculate even to my untrained eyes.

This movie pretty much has everything going for it- important historical events weaved in with great characters, in particular Burt Lancaster, who portrays one of the most compelling patriarch I've ever seen on film- despite all his dialogue being dubbed in Italian. Apparently the book that this is based on was a national phenomenon in Italy- sort of like Gone With the Wind was in America- in that it captured the nostalgic/elegiac spirit of the nation about events that forever changed the future of their country and their way of life. The historical event referred to here is risorgimento, in which a revolutionary movement led to the unification of 8 different states that we now collectively refer to as Italy. This movie focuses on what happened to Sicily and its nobilities during that time. What makes the movie great is that it goes beyond history and pretty pictures, to simply portray a man who graciously faces an end of an era, his own mortality, and the cold hard truth that the next generation will get to experience things that he couldn't.

I'm amazed that I've never heard of Visconti until now- I'm very curious now to check out more of his stuff. He is yet another in a long list of directors that confirm my theory that Italian men with catholic angst make the best movies, i.e. Scorsese, Fellini, De Sica, Bertolucci, etc.