on January 4, 2007
"The Leopard" (1963), based on the novel of the same name written by Giuseppe Tomasi Di Lampedusa, is the best film I have seen this year. Directed by Luchino Visconti, this splendid Italian movie takes the spectator straight into late 19th century Italy, a time of social and political change, something "The Leopard" shows clearly and in a masterful way.
One of the main characters is Prince Don Fabrizio of Salina (Burt Lancaster), who realizes that he must do something, if he wants the House of Salina to remain powerful in a new world that is going to be dominated by the middle class, not the aristocracy. The answer comes to him in the form of his nephew Tancredi (Alain Delon), an ally of the new forces that says that "If we want things to stay as they are, things will have to change".
Prince Salina is bitter regarding the need for compromise ("We were the leopards, the lions, those who take our place will be jackals and sheep, and the whole lot of us - leopards, lions, jackals and sheep - will continue to think ourselves the salt of the earth"), but he recognizes the wisdom of the path Tancredi suggests, and supports him. What is more, Prince Salina also gives his blessing to Tancredi's decision to marry Angelica (Claudia Cardinali), an extremely beautiful and well-connected woman from the middle class. Of course, that doesn't sit well with Concetta (Lucilla Morlacchi), Tancredi's counsin, who has fallen thoroughly in love with him.
I would like to point out that there is a lot more to "The Leopard" than the plot I just outlined, for example the beautiful Sicilian scenery, the wonderful music, and the political connotations of several scenes. From my point of view, this is the kind of film you can enjoy, but also learn from. On the whole, highly recommended!
on June 17, 2004
Adapted from a novella by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, The Leopard paints a vivid picture of the Italian aristocracy falling from grace and the middle class revolting to form a more democratic Italy on an epic canvas. Caught up in this class revolution is an affluent family led by the Prince of Salina, Don Fabrizio Corbera (Burt Lancaster). He recognizes that he is part of an obsolete generation and that his young nephew, Tancredi Falconeri (Alain Delon), and his beautiful fiancée, Angelica Sedara (Claudia Cardinale), represent the new order.
The first DVD features an audio commentary by film scholar Peter Cowie. He provides the backstory to Visconti's career leading up to The Leopard. Cowie talks at length about the film in relation to its source material. This is a strong, informative track that is an excellent introduction to the cinema of Visconti.
The second DVD starts off with a fantastic, hour-long documentary, entitled "A Dying Breed: The Making of the Leopard," that was created especially for the DVD. There are interviews with most of the surviving cast and crew, including Claudia Cardinale and the film's screenwriters.
This is an excellent look at The Leopard from the origins of the novel to the film's botched U.S. version that truncated Visconti's vision and was re-dubbed with English-speaking actors.
There is also a "Goffredo Lombardo Interview" with the producer of The Leopard.
"The History of Risorgimento" examines the real historical figures and the times they lived in with the professor of Italian Studies at the University of Pennsylvania, Millicent Marcus. This is a really good primer for anyone who is unfamiliar with this particular period of Italian history.
Finally, there is a "Promotional Materials" section with an extensive stills gallery, a vintage Italian newsreel of the film's premiere and its success at that year's Cannes Film Festival, and three trailers-one Italian and two American.
The third and final DVD features a remastered copy of the truncated U.S. version that was dubbed in English and included Lancaster's actual voice.
Criterion has pulled off quite a coup with this DVD set. This is the first time that The Leopard has ever appeared on DVD. Criterion has painstakingly restored the film to its original glory, with a flawless transfer and included both the Italian and U.S. versions. It is a fitting package for this cinematic masterpiece.
on November 15, 2003
First of all we must separate Visconti's Il Gattopardo, all the 225 minutes of it, from the mess recut, recolored, re-dubbed by 20th Century Fox and distributed as a sort of Burt Lancaster vehicle.
I speak of the original.
Under Count Lucchino Visconti di Modrone's direction and with the aid of 263 technicians, 4300 candles, 500 pairs of white gloves, 5113 costumes, real food, wine, 6 tailors with 56 seamsters, a laundry service, 4 bootmakers and 644 meters of track on which three cameras rolled, Burt Lancaster, Rina Morelli, Alain Delon, Claudia Cardinale and other magnificent actors transport us to a time of revolutonary change, destruction and renewal in Sicily, 1860.
Neither opulence nor poverty become so obtrusive that we forget what is going on with the Prince of Salina. The sets are magnificent: the villa at San Lorenzo is in real life Villa Boscogrande and the palazzo of the Princes Ponteleone where the great 44 1/2 minute ballroom scene takes place is none other than Palazzo Gangi in Palermo.
Amid all this splendor Prince Salina, the Leopard, senses the end of his world, of his own class. Actually he contributes to it by encouraging his penniless but charming nephew Tancredi (Delon) to marry the vulgar but extremely rich and beautiful Angelica, daughter of Calogero Sedara, one of the "up and coming" men of the post revolutionary world, a resident of the Prince's fief of Donnafugatta.
The Prince tries to make sense of this new world but the events leave a bitter taste in his mouth. He even repeats Tancredi's maxim, " things have got to change if we want them to stay as they are," but he does so without much conviction and he thinks of the family tomb at the Capuchins when the rest of Parlemitan society dances the evening away through the magnificent Baroque and Rococco rooms of the great Palazzzo Gangi.
It took 48 nights to film the ball scene and the results are apparent. It and the rest of the film are sheer perfection.
I hope the new version being released is based as much as possible on the original Visconti cut. Anything else is clearly not good enough.
on February 21, 2011
The Leopard is an Italian period film directed by Luchino Visconti, and released in 1963.
It centers around the Salinas, a family of aristocrats in southern Italy, during the Risorgimento (a civil movement that united the parts of Italy) in the mid-19th century.
The Prince of Salina, cast as Burt Lancaster, struggles with the fading power of his class and disapproves highly of the changes occurring in his society. Much of the film focuses on the Prince's internal struggle, as he labors to come to grips with the radical changes in his ancient world.
The secondary characters include the coupling of the Prince's nephew, the dashing Tancredi, and the daughter of the mayor of Donnafugata (the location of the Prince's summer resort), the beautiful Angelica. Their relationship is often explored in the film - its effects on the rest of the family and the Prince in particular.
The Leopard is an opulent masterpiece - it paints a rich, vibrant portrait of aristocratic life in Italy during the period, and is in equal parts a historical film, a political film, and a drama.
The casting is excellent - Burt Lancaster is outstanding as Prince Fabrizio; Alain Delon as Tancredi and Claudia Cardinale as Angelica stand out as well. All the minor characters are portrayed well by their actors.
Each scene is packed with detail - The Leopard was a costly film, and it shows. Everything looks genuinely authentic - the furnishings, the food, the decorations are all marvelous. The Leopard is perhaps one of the most visually rich films I have ever seen. Eye candy at it's finest.
In terms of the release itself, Criterion has done a bang-up job as usual. The disks are housed in a beautifully illustrated digipack, with full-color stills from the movie. Also included is a 17-page booklet, containing liner notes and a short essay.
The first disk contains the movie itself, in glorious HD. Although Criterion did not use the new restoration by Fox, this release still has outstanding picture quality. The audio track is Italian, an uncompressed 1.0 LPCM. No problems with the audio either.
Also included on the first disk is a commentary by Peter Cowie, which plays along with the film. Very informative, and recommended listening.
The second disk contains the English edition, which is for all intents and purposes completely inferior to the original Italian edition. It is nice to have it included, though, for completion purposes. Other special features include a 1hr. Making Of documentary, featuring interviews of the surviving cast and crew; two interviews featuring the film's producer and a scholar of Italian history; trailers and newsreels; and several picture galleries.
One of Criterion's best releases on Blu-Ray, and highly recommended for all film lovers.
on June 26, 2004
This is a film about the end of an age -- the age of the aristocrat. It also happens to be a film made by a member of the aristocracy. Luchino Visconti, the director, comes from a long line of Italian aristocrats. Visconti's films are all in one way or another about men who are incompatible with the age in which they live. In The Leopard Lancaster plays a refined Prince who has outlived his time. In his prime the Prince was the very model of health and vitality and he was the uncontested authority to all who lived in his province but now he is starting to show his age and his own decline coincides with the decline of his class and an entire way of life. Being such a refined figure the Prince records his decline in minute detail -- he seems to age right before our very eyes. It is obvious to the filmgoer that Visconti has no real love for democracy nor the way of life that comes with it. Elections are seen as crass popularity contests and the parvenus who seek office are seen as dim and uncultivated and lacking in that fineness of spirit that was the defining trait of the aristocracy. It is the Princes misfortune to live to see all that he values vanishing minute by minute before his very eyes and that is what happens in the famous hour-long ballroom scene. The new class rising to power has no time to cultivate that fineness of spirit and range of interest required to understand men and their needs and so govern them well. Instead the class now rising to power is largely self-serving and small-minded. Though they call themselves democrats they are preoccupied with material gain and status and the kind of civilization they are making is no longer capable of producing a man like the Prince. However Visconti himself is proof that the aristocratic spirit lives on even though the aristocracy does not.
It is more than a bit likely that this portrait of an ideal aristocat is just that, an ideal. I've heard this film described as Proustian. That is true only in so much as the film is obsessed with the passage of time. Proust, unlike Visconti, is interested in a multi-faceted psychological expose of the leisurely class. Proust loves his aristocrats but he shows them for the vain creatures that they are. Proust may have had something of the romantic in him but that was balanced by a keen social awareness (ie Dreyfus affair) that is nowhere to be found in Visconti's single-minded meditation on one man's point of view. Proust can speak of highly subjective states of mind and points of view but each point of view is balanced by other points of view. This pluralism and balance is simply not to be found in the Leopard nor in any of Visconti's other works. The Leopard is Visconti's best film but it is a myopic world view we are getting - we feel trapped in the Princes(and by extension the aristocratic) point of view. This is at times a strength and at times a weakness of the film.
on June 24, 2004
Leopard is a grandiose epic film based on the Sicilian aristocrat Giuseppe Tomasi Di Lampedusa's novel that he wrote in respect to his grandfather. The director Luchino Visconti, who was born as count, knew what kind of character was needed for the main part as Prince Don Fabrizio Salina as the film displays strong aristocratic conduct and value. Burt Lancaster was chosen to perform as the Prince of Salina, which initially was met with much reluctance. However, the initial resistance to cast Lancaster was swept away as he performed with convincing brilliance, which together with Visconti's direction left cinema history with a masterpiece.
The story circulates Don Fabrizio, a dominant aristocrat with a mere presence that demands respect, as it depicts an emerging new nation and a past where inherited power was slowly slipping away. Don Fabrizio recognizes the ruling class's ignorance for the current political changes as the nation is unified under the new flag. The aristocrats continue their silly games and diversions in their immense mansions that are slowly falling apart as an emerging middle class is seeking wealth and power. This leads Don Fabrizio to form a bond between the nobility and the common by permitting a wedding between Tancredi Falconeri (Alain Delon) and Angelica (Claudia Cardinale), whose father, Don Calogero, is a middle class politician that is raising in the ranks. This leads to a subtly political loaded film as it depicts the scheming middle class's quest for power and wealth as the nobility might only keep their fancy names if they are not following the new changes within the nation.
Leopard is a marvelous film with colossal shots of the Sicilian scenery that evokes a sense of freedom for the people while underlying currents bring notions of ownership. The story deals with ownership in a most delicate manner as it deals with love, marriage, friendships, war, and social events. However, Leopard also reminds the audience about the imminent change of possession as love can change, which is brought to the audience's attention when Don Fabrizio goes to see his lover amidst a bloody revolution. In addition, the tale of Don Fabrizio displays the manner in which one must control or protect ownership. This is brilliantly depicted in the opening scene where the Salina family is having a private mass in their home that is continued under the strong influence of Don Fabrizio as an emerging revolution is underway outside their windows. Under the cooperation between Visconti and Lancaster the audience experiences the transformation of Don Fabrizio from old to new. This transformation is what helps provide for a brilliant cinematic experience as it offers eye candy, profound insights, and a tale that will not be forgotten.
on October 24, 2003
A DVD release of this flawed but fascinating film needs to happen. Lampedusa's epochal novel is likely not to have another cinematic presentation any time soon. This one, with Burt Lancaster miscast but nevertheless remarkable in the title role, should be available to film students and the film-going public.