Thursday, June 11, 2009
This is the first Visconti film I've seen, and I will certainly work my way through his catalogue. The Leopard clocks in at 3 hours, but I didn't notice its length at all, swept up as I was by the gorgeous look of this film, which uses Italy and its interior and exterior landscapes to such glowing effect.
Burt Lancaster is an actor I've never thought much about, but his performance as an aging Prince "straddling two worlds and uncomfortable in neither" is truly remarkable. He's a sensitive liberal, he's a pious hypocrite, he's a raging self-righteous nobleman, he's a pitilessly practical man, he's an idealist, he's a philanderer, he's an indulgent father; Lancaster brings all aspects of the Prince of Salina to warm and subtle life, and I fell in love with the character warts and all. Just when you think Burt has brought down the house, he manages an extended and elegant dance sequence! "We were the leopards and lions. What follows us will be jackals and hyenas." Indeed, Burt! The Prince is realistic about Garimbaldi and the changes in Sicily's and Italy's future; he doesn't hold onto the old ways, merely noting their passing and enjoying his old age. Offered a role in the "new" Sicily, the Prince refuses, and his explanation is a precious moment in a long long film.
As always, the Criterion disc is exceptionally clear. Worth checking out!