8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Carlos E. Velasquez
- Published on Amazon.com
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.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
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!