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Conversation Piece [Import]

DVD

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Product Details

  • Format: Dubbed, NTSC, Import
  • Language: English
  • Dubbed: Italian
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Studio: Kino Lorber films
  • Release Date: March 13 2012
  • ASIN: B006MHZFGY

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.5 out of 5 stars  14 reviews
16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Destruction And Dysfunction: Visconti Returns To Form With This Claustrophobic Chamber Piece March 29 2012
By K. Harris - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Blu-ray
In 1974 (two years before his death), legendary Italian director Luchino Visconti revisited a number of his most familiar narrative themes for the fascinating, if not wholly successful, "Conversation Piece." I'm almost ashamed to admit that as a long time admirer of Visconti (not to mention Burt Lancaster), I had never seen this movie until its current DVD incarnation. Reuniting Lancaster and Visconti certainly recalled their earlier pairing on the sublime "The Leopard," and I couldn't help comparing the films to some degree. Visconti, from his earliest neo-realist classics to his late period masterpieces, always had the power to provoke. A master of shot composition, as opposed to staging action, his filmmaking style always made me feel like somewhat of a voyeur intruding on his character's most intimate (or even mundane) moments. This fly-on-the-wall appeal is abundant in "Conversation Piece," a chilling and enigmatic chamber piece of a film that utilizes its claustrophobic environment to great affect. And while I didn't always believe the character interactions within this film, I was absolutely mesmerized by the undercurrent of emotions that lay just underneath the surface of all of the performances.

Lancaster plays an aging academic content to finish his days alone with his art, books, and music. One day a strange and intrusive woman (Silvana Mangano) insists on renting an upstairs apartment in his palazzo. Despite his insistence that it isn't for rent, he is soon meeting her grown children and an aloof family friend (Helmut Berger) and succumbing to their insistent charms. These early moments are played with such chaos and exaggeration, it's hard to identify with Lancaster's acquiescence as he is all but bulldozed in every scene. But he does relent and the characters morph into one of the most interesting, but dysfunctional, family units that you're likely to encounter. Lancaster is drawn into both troubling situations and unexpected camaraderie, and it becomes increasingly clear that these new relationships will either destroy him or help him reclaim his life. Maybe both! His bond with Berger becomes the centerpiece to the drama and the moments the pair spend together are the film's most engaging ones.

Lancaster, as you would expect, is exceptional. While I didn't wholly buy the initial premise, his reluctant inclusion into a lively family dynamic is superbly rendered and absolutely believable. Filmed in stagnant shots within cramped quarters, the characters seemed all but trapped with one another. Throughout, there are relevant observations about changes in the international political climate, the aristocracy versus the new guard, and the evolving social mores of a younger generation. It is a culture clash debate in which each party has a different viewpoint to offer the other. Mangano is edgy and irresistibly frustrating, but it is Berger who all but steals the show. This is, perhaps, my favorite role I've seen him in. An instigator or a victim? Every character revolves around the enigmatic allure of this young hustler and, as I said earlier, he could be their salvation or their undoing. I really enjoyed the complexities and ideas that Visconti brings to "Conversation Piece." It may not be his "best" film or even my favorite, but it is certainly an essential one. About 4 1/2 stars.

The Blu-ray presentation and new digital remaster looks great by the way. The disc also has an interview with critic/screenwriter Alessandro Bencivenni and a terrific 16 page booklet insert about the film and Visconti. A very nice addition. KGHarris, 3/12.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Conversation Piece - Gruppo Di Famiglia in un Interno April 20 2012
By Carlos E. Velasquez - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
Luchino Visconti is one of the best known Italian directors in the United States, together with Bernardo Bertolucci, Vittorio De Sica, Roberto Rossellini, and few others. He is known for being one of the fathers of the so-called Italian neo-realism film movement from the 40s and 50s, and it is best remembered, for example, by such movies as "The Leopard" (1963) and "Death in Venice" (1971). The exquisite and penetrating "Conversation Piece" (aka "Gruppo Di Famiglia in un Interno") was Visconti's penultimate film before his death, and it is a treat to have it now available in DVD and Blu-ray. And what a delight it is!

"Conversation Piece" is the type of film that I most respect, as it was filmed inside limited interior sets, without any distraction, and with a smart story and dialogue. It stars frequent Visconti collaborator Burt Lancaster (loved by Italian directors) as Il Professore, an aging and retired American professor that lives by himself in a magnificent villa in Rome. His only company is Herminia (Elvira Cortese), his maid, and a few of Herminia's assistants. He truly values his solitude and enjoys collecting art and reading. However, all that changes when he is approached by Bianca Brumonti (the delightful Silvana Mangano), a rich aristocrat who wants to rent an apartment from Il Professore, in order that her younger lover, Konrad Huebel (Helmet Berger), could live in it. He informs her that he is not interested in renting that apartment, because he uses it to store his stuff. Mrs. Brumonti doesn't take no for an answer and basically forces herself into the property. We learn that Il Professore was right in not renting the apartment, as Mrs. Brumonti, her daughter Lietta (Claudia Marsani), her son Stefano (Stefano Patrizi), and Konrad make his life miserable, up to a point in which Lietta says, "There is a tragedy here every five minutes."

The film is very captivating -- there are plenty twists and turns until the very last minute. In addition, Visconti injects messages about class politics - rich versus poor, left versus right. It is great drama, with some funny and steamy moments. The DVD includes a booklet with information about the film and Visconti, as well as special features which include an interview with film critic Alessandro Benccivenni, trailer and more. (Italy, 1974, color, 125 min plus additional materials).

Reviewed on April 4, 2012 by Eric Gonzales for RaroVideo.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fine film, and a fine performance from all the principals March 16 2012
By BMoore - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Blu-ray
I love this film because it is alternately in-your-face and delicately nuanced, sometimes in a single scene.

The other reviews here are very good, and I won't parrot those, but I do want to mention that Burt Lancaster is superb in his role as the retired, put-upon American professor. If you are familiar with Lancaster only through his big-budget Hollywood roles, see him in this, and you will will re-think your opinion of him as an actor. Then see him in "The Train" and "Atlantic City", "The Swimmer", and "1900", and you will have have a very healthy respect for his acting chops as he does a great job in these very different, but demanding roles.

This is a gorgeous movie to look at; it's emotional without being contrived, and it deserves to be more than a "cult film". I don't consider it to be inaccessible to the masses as many cult films are.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A sophisticated, sensual Portrait in Black of a Decadent Society March 6 2012
By Devon Savoy - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Blu-ray
Luchino Visconti: one of the most important Directors ever!And,not just European! One of the masters from all over the World,and from every time!
All of his movies are worth buying, watching, enjoying, studying.
I always loved his taste, his class, his insightful perfection! He was never too excessive, actually very moral, very intense without ever going over board!
His first movies were extremely condensed, introspective, stylish and unforgettable.
His later ones were more open to a mainstream vision,like this one, nonetheless priceless and never compromised.
In fact, "THE CONVERSATION PIECE" (US Ok title for the Italian way more Classic sounding:"GRUPPO DI FAMIGLIA IN UN INTERNO",which more or less, means 'Portrait of a Family in Interns') shot in 1974,is an everlasting classic film, that i keep recommend watching to those who can,always getting call back's or even thank you notes, for having them acquainted, to what has now became also one of their favorite films!
Shot with a great technical crew,and a certainly not small budget,at least for European scales,and, with an international and (then) potent cast, which became so much of a Key role to the Success of this movie,that, in fact, it is easier to tell a little about it,just by mentioning the principles:
Burt Lancaster,never better,as the Professor,the real protagonist,but also the teller,and ,ultimately,and quite ironically,also the victim,of this very Roman tale of Decadence that so finely nails a certain horrific World and Society,dominating both morally and politically, the complex,yet fascinating Italian scene of the early 1970's, where protestors,and Aristocrats,sex and drugs, politicians and Church,Arts and Costumes,frauds and scandals,civil terrorism and underground dangerous neo nazi's lobbies, were plotting,at times, even intersecting against, and with (fascinatingly!)each others,with Helmut Berger, as the mysterious,desperate gigolo' and angel,at the same time,who becomes a symbol of self destruction, so typical of those days,and,class act's Silvana Mangano (in what for me remains her most sublime acting effort ever,and look,as well!) as the still wildly attractive,crass talking, self deprecating, patrician and bored,amoral trophy wife of a powerful and highly corrupted Italian major industrialist,adding to the mix, 2 controversial newbies,like Claudia Marsani (sort of a deceiving,irresistible young nymph,like, for those who know Italian Cinema,at least a bit,Stefania Sandrelli,had been a decade earlier,sort to speak..) and handsome,aristocratic looking, Stefano Patrizi, as again, 2 and, so very perfectly 'Viscontian' representations of Youth,contaminated and deeply affected, by the corrupt World they were raised and brought up in, yet,in some morbid way, becoming as the narration unfolds,almost more and more attractive and lustful,just because of the sins they innocently commit clueless or not, almost every day!
Then, even outstanding character actors and Visconti's regulars, Romolo Valli (immense actor) and Philippe Hersent,depicting other minor yet extremely key figures in this landscape of darkness and perversions, and finally,the special Guest Appearances of 2 of Visconti's favorite movie stars of that time: the wonderfully photographed and forever enigmatic,almost truly divine, Dominique Sanda (as the Professor's American socialite mother,quickly telling us all we need to know about the Professor's extraordinary background, in 2 Flash Back's I can only consider like 2 examples of cinematic perfection),who appears actually on the cover, of this so long over due Blue Ray's presentation of this forgotten (in USA only)Visconti's Classic,and also an actress,Visconti wanted to work with, more, and,had in fact planned several projects for,unfortunately never made, because of Visconti's recurring illnesses, and premature death.
And,last but not least,in one emblematic,and very revealing scene,the special appearance, also in flash back,of another great international Star, Claudia Cardinale (who'd been the lead, instead, of 2 major movies of the Maestro,already!)as the Professor's ex wife.
What else to say ,without really wanting to spoil this masterpiece, who's also a guilty pleasure of a film to watch, and, for those who love, like me, the Italian Cinema of the Past,or Recent Past,a gem not to be missed, while, for all Others, a lesson on Filmmaking, without ever becoming a boring lecture, but actually, being always an extremely engaging and elegant,at times,even sexy and mundane,dramatic portrait of a certain International High Society, so common during the 1960's/1970's, and not only in Italy! However, this Film, besides becoming one of the most gorgeous and hauntingly existential films ever made,about morals and customs (like Schlesinger's splendid Julie Christie's Academy Award Winning vehicle "Darling" penned by the great Frederic Raphael in 1965,a film Visconti liked very much,or, in some other ways,a bit like,sort of becoming ,a more penetrating study,for example,into one of the several stories, intersecting in Fellini's masterpiece,and one of my personal favorite films of all time, "La Dolce Vita" from 1959!) offers not only that,and an attempt and accomplished essay at serious characters' development,as well, but,certainly,also, a full piece of an important slice of relatively recent Italian history,and, in a way, how to see(and... understand,maybe Why!), and in Visconti's case, tragically, yet so genius,How to foresee, what happened of wrong and abrupt, from just a decade later and on,to these current days, to Italian's actually highly unstable, and at times,even laughable Political Affairs,or to,even all the scandals,bribes and murders of this Country's shaky Economics,but,most of all, What destroyed in Italy the passion(way,nowadays,too long forgotten)of its people, for their Culture,and immense and celebrated,yet almost misunderstood, Arts' Public patrimony, one of those, being certainly, the loss of their past,as one of the greatest,most innovative Cinema ever, when people were lining up,in America,and all over the World,for films from Directors and well known Masters like, Fellini,De Sica, Rossellini,Antonioni,Pasolini, Zurlini, Germi,Petri,and so many more,i cannot even try to mention all on here, and,of course, like Luchino Visconti, himself, and this grand little film, which again shows the potent meaning,and never ending strength of those much celebrated times,and their Film makers!
Again, I'll repeat: A MUST SEE!
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars (4.5 stars) Considered as Luchino Visconti's "last will & testament", "Gruppo Di Famiglia In Un Interno" is magnificent! April 28 2012
By Dennis A. Amith (kndy) - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
For Italian filmmaker Luchino Visconti, although his oeuvre may not be as lengthy compared to Roberto Rossellini or Federico Fellini, he is among the few that have crew created films that not only were beloved in his country, but have remained cinema classics worldwide.

Visconti was also involved with filmmakers Rossellini, Fellini, Puccini, Pietrangeli and De Santis in collaboration in creating the first Italian neorealist movie "Obsession" in 1943. Breaking away from neorealism in the '50s, Visconti pursued realism and romanticism and set his own path of creating films that were personal.

Well-known for directing theatre and opera but for cinema, he is best known for creating masterpiece after masterpiece such as "The Leopard" (1963), "Sandra" (1965), "The Damned" (1969), "Death in Venice" (1971), and for many, his films such as "La terra trema", "Bellissima", "Senso", "Le notte bianche", "Rocco and His Brothers" and "The Stranger" would also rank high on the list for many cineaste.

But one film would also rank high among cineaste, some may consider it another masterpiece and that was his 1974 film "Gruppo Di Famiglia In Un Interno", also known as "Conversation Piece". Winner for "Best Film" at the David di Donatello Awards", "Blue Ribbon Awards", "Fotogramas de Plata", "Kinema Junpo Awards" and the Italian National Syndicate of Film Journalists", the film would receive recognition worldwide.

But also, the film would be known as Visconti's "Last Will & Testament". In an interview with actor Burt Lancaster, Lancaster said that Visconti told Lancaster that the character he was playing was him. Lancaster said, "I knew that the old man I was playing was him. He told me another time, `This is my life. I am very much alone. I never knew how to love. I never had a family.'"

And now this classic Visconti masterpiece has arrived on DVD (March 2012) and a Blu-ray release (scheduled for April 2012) courtesy of RaroVideo. As the film has had its fair share of being censored (due to the political dialogue and profanity in the film), the version featured on DVD is the uncut version.

"Gruppo Di Famiglia In Un Interno" is also a personal film for Visconti. The film would be critical of the Jet Set high society lifestyle, the film would star Visconti's partner Helmut Berger but the film also was a comeback for Visconti who was incapacitated due to health reasons.

This comeback for cinema would be the second-to-last film that Visconti would write and direct before his death due to a stroke two years later.

While the film's titled "Gruppo di famiglia in Un Interno" describes the internal situation of a family, the English title "Conversation Piece" refers to artwork of 18th Century English paintings, typically of a group engaged in conversation but also a reference to the protagonist's observance of a wealthy family and their way of engaging in conversation.

VIDEO & AUDIO:

"Gruppo Di Famiglia In Un Interno" (Conversation Piece) is presented in 2:35:1 (16×9) and in English monaural. It's important to note that for those who want the best version of this film to date, RaroVideo will be releasing a Blu-ray version in April 2012.

With that being said, ""Gruppo Di Famiglia In Un Interno" (Conversation Piece) has been digitally restored. The picture quality of this DVD is amazingly good for a near 40-year-old film. Considering how much we have seen in terms of restoration of Visconti films in the last two years for DVD and Blu-ray release, I have watched this film before and the film looked its age.

Because this film rarely takes place outside of the professor's home, you really can't tell this is a 1974 film. The colors look very good and I detected no major defects with picture quality. Granted, in HD, I would expect to see much more detail and noticeable light and warmer colors. But for DVD, picture quality is good as one can expect.

As for audio, audio is presented in monaural, English dialogue is clear and understandable. As with the music and noises emanating from the tenant's room. But it's a clear soundtrack that had no hissing, crackling, pops or any issues.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

"Gruppo Di Famiglia In Un Interno (Conversation Piece)" comes with the following special feature:

Interview with Alessandro Benccivenni - (9:33) Film critic and screenwriter Alessandro Benccivenni talks about Luchino Visconti and the making of "Grippo Di Famiglia in Un Interno".
Original Trailer - (3:46) The original theatrical trailer for "Gruppo Di Famiglia In Un Interno (Conversation Piece)".

EXTRAS:

"La Visita" comes with a slipcover case and an 18-page booklet featuring critical analysis by Mark Rappaport and a Luchino Visconti biography.

JUDGMENT CALL:

"Gruppo Di Famiglia In Un Interno" is a film that has always hit me in so many levels. As I appreciate its humorous take on high society, it's almost dreamlike surreal situations that often take place, I enjoy how the film was cleverly written and his ability to allow his obsession of politics especially sexuality be displayed in his films.

And like so many other Luchino Visconti films that I adore, this film was also intriguing for me in the fact that it was a personal Visconti film.

If a filmmaker could predict his own demise, what kind of film would you make? I look towards Andrei Tarkovsky's "The Sacrifice" as an example. As a fan of Luchino Visconti films, "Gruppo Di Famiglia In Un Interno" was a film that I had looked differently at compared to any other films in Visconti's oeuvre.

Mainly for the reason as the more you research Visconti's work, you begin to research him not only as Visconti the filmmaker but also as an individual. As a man who is an aesthete, his films can depict an acerbic tone, some may be towards the society, politics or even sexuality and while "Gruppo Di Famiglia In Un Interno" is no different, especially when compared to his film "Death in Venice", but this film, it appears that he is also directing this scathing tone towards himself.

I have read that this legendary Italian filmmaker felt lonely. Never had a family. May it be depression or something that happened within his life that gave him that state of mind, the fact is that in this film, he has created a character based on himself and asks the question, if you have art. If you have music. If you have these expensive possessions that many people acquire with wealth, is it still enough to fill the void in life, if you don't have love or family?

We often read about many classic Hollywood celebrities who lived the final days of their life as recluse and for the character of the Professor, he chose his passion over love and family. And when that opportunity came to have people in his home, he begins to realize how much it meant to him, despite having wealth and all the possessions that he desired.

Visconti's "Gruppo Di Famiglia In Un Interno" is a film that has a message that life is short and one should be able to live life to its fullest.

The film parallels the life of the Professor and Visconti not only in life but also in the manner of death. Not to say that Visconti could have predicted how his last years of his life would be on this planet but somehow he knew that his life would not last that long while making this film. Premonition, intuition? Who knows.

But in the film, the Professor felt a new synergy in his life when he starts to consider the new tenants almost like a part of his family, moreso for the Professor and Konrad. In real life, Visconti and Helmut Berger (who plays the character of Konrad) were a real life couple and in the film, the relationship between Konrad and Konrad Huebel) was like father-and-son. A father wanting to take care of someone. But when you look at the context of life and cinema, was there more to it? Was there an underlying message between the Professor and Konrad and the real life Visconti and Helmut Berger.

This is my take and my personal opinion but when I first watched this film and knowing a little about Visconti's life, it was my feeling that Visconti knew he wouldn't have a long life and discovered the love and passions in his life quite late. Would he have a much more fulfilling life if he pursued love and family earlier on.

In the film, we see how the character Lietta tells the Professor how she turns him on and if he asked her to marry him, she would. But he tells her that he doesn't have much time and the characters then get into a discussion about his life and family. With the professor wanting to share that passion of art and music with someone but as much as he thought that the enjoyment of life was embodied in the art that he has collected, it's been far too long since the Professor was able to care for someone.

The great artist Salvador Dali once ridiculed Visconti's lifestyle by saying that "he was a communist who only liked luxury" and Visconti's character of the Professor was similar but perhaps it was a wakeup call for Visconti that he needed to change his life, not place so much into luxury but towards love but his discovery of that was possibly a little too late.

Visconti may have felt that because of his older age and ill health (it is said that Visconti smoked up to 120 cigarettes a day), he didn't have much time to live and so, thus "Gruppo Di Famiglia In Un Interno" became known as the director's last will & testament.

And for me, that is why I appreciate this film on a different level compared to Visconti's other films. This is a man near death, putting his heart and soul to this film with a character about himself but yet, in Visconti-fashion, he is able to create this idiosyncratic film.

And while this film is enjoyable, one of its most controversial moments is when we realize who Konrad really is and when "Conversation Piece" was screened at the 1975 New York Film Festival, it was not well received. Possibly the most problematic part of this film that I have read over time is the casting of Helmut Berger to play Konrad. A plaything for a woman possibly in her '50s and his involvement in a movement which I don't want to spoil but yet it was hard for others to take in because Helmut Berg looked very young for his age. This has always been a sore point for certain viewers who felt his character looked "too good" and "too young" to play the part.

But for those who have watched a Visconti film, there has always been an underlying premise of silliness. Does everything have to be right? One should know from a Visconti film by now that things, especially with characters are imperfect. For me, I was never bothered by the casting of Berg and it was no surprise that he was in the film as well. This is a story by Visconti, about Visconti and as the Professor has discovered a new meaning to life with Konrad, Visconti in real life found love with Helmut Berger and both Visconti/Professor knew the one thing they did not have was time.

As for the DVD release, RaroVideo has continued to impress me release after release. Picture quality is good on DVD and considering this is a new digital restored film, I was quite impressed of how good this film looks compared to an older release in which the film did show its age. But "Gruppo Di Famiglia In Un Interno" doesn't look like a 1974 film because the quality of the video is pretty good. But with that being said, it's also important to remind those wanting to purchase this film is that a Blu-ray version of this film will be released a month later. So, if you want the best picture and audio quality, you may want to wait for the Blu-ray release.

Overall, "Gruppo Di Famiglia In Un Interno" is a Visconti idiosyncratic film that I have enjoyed over the years. Yes, "The Leopard", "Death in Venice", "Senso" and many other Visconti films can be considered as magnificent, but I have to put this film high on my list of favorite Visconti films because of its grandeur, its beauty, its humor, its absurdity, its acerbic tone and message.

"Gruppo Di Famiglia In Un Interno" may be known as Visconti's last will & testament but it's also a film that everyone can relate too. Life is short, enjoy it while you can.

"Gruppo Di Famiglia In Un Interno" (Conversation Piece) is highly recommended!

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