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Venezia, spring of 1866, in the last days of the Austrian occupation. A performance of Il Trovatore ends up in confusion due to an anti-Austrian demonstration, organised by Count Ussoni. His cousin Countess Serpieri falls in love with vile Austrian Lieutenant Franz Mahler, but the times are changing. Written by
Vincent Merlaud <email@example.com>
Opens with a lush rendition of Il Trovatore at Teatro La Fenice, SENSO is an ostentatious melodrama imprinted with Visconti's pronounced blue blood opulence, retells an Italian countess' (Valli) vain and poignant attempt to pursue her one-sided affection to an Austrian officer (Granger shines in the rich Technicolor palette as an Adonis), whose misogyny and promiscuity will cause his own doom and mar her mentality up to the hilt.
The film sets its time during the fall of Austrian occupation in Venezia 1866, Valli is wavering between her bureaucratic husband (Moog) and rioting cousin (Girotti), to break loose from the stalemate, she irrevocably falls for a young lieutenant in the opponent camp, but he is no knight in shining armor but a foul and spineless scoundrel with irresistible sheen of deadly charm. Granger's gorgeous lover-boy image is a quintessential smokescreen to veil his despicable innards, but after all, it is a consensual deal despite of Valli's false hope, more significantly its anti-war signals have been forcibly cast by Granger's self-abandonment and the lousy war battlefield experienced by Girotti, which, more plausibly it is an intentional move by Visconti, a distraction from the central turmoil, but done with a tinge of amateurish fecklessness.
Valle shoulders on a profound effort to scrutinize a woman's inscrutable sexual desire which being repressed for too long, both she and Granger align themselves with Visconti's brimful-of- emotion style (again, thanks to Techincolor and the overstuffed score as well) which approximate the OTT threshold in certain degree, although falling out with Visconti eventually, Granger succeeds in bringing about his best screen persona and it was such a great era when a gay man can play an outright straight womanizer on the celluloid.
On the one hand SENSO fails to impress me as my favorite among Visconti's work of art, and scale-wise pales by comparison with LUDWIG (1972, 8/10) and THE LEOPARD (1963, 8/10), but on the other hand, only Visconti can flaunt such an overbearing melodrama with true mettle and without any compromise, a trend-setter would inspire later kindred spirits, for instance Baz Luhrmann's 3D adaption of the bourgeois sumptuosity THE GREAT GATSBY (2013, 8/10).
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