In this adaptation of the Thomas Mann novel, avant-garde composer Gustave Aschenbach (loosely based on Gustav Mahler) travels to a Venetian seaside resort in search of repose after a period... See full summary »
In the 1860s, a dying aristocracy struggles to maintain itself against a harsh Sicilian landscape. The film traces with a slow and deliberate rhythm the waning of the noble home of Fabrizio Corbero, Prince of Salina (the Leopard) and the corresponding rise to eminence of the enormously wealthy ex-peasant Don Calogero Sedara. The prince himself refuses to take active steps to halt the decline of his personal fortunes or to help build a new Sicily but his nephew Tancredi, Prince of Falconeri swims with the tide and assures his own position by marrying Don Calogero's beautiful daughter Angelica. The climatic scene is the sumptuous forty-minute ball, where Tancredi introduces Angelica to society. Written by
According to Claudia Cardinale, interviewed on the excellent three-disc Criterion set, the period corset she wore during filming was so narrow that Burt Lancaster could encircle her waist with his large hands, and that it was so constricting that it bruised her flesh so badly that she showed Luchino Visconti, presumably to gain his sympathy for the pain she endured to make herself credible in the role. See more »
During one of the long shots of the journey to Donnafugata, a blur crosses the screen near the center, apparently caused by a fly crawling over the lens. See more »
Tancredi, one tells nasty tales like that to a confessor, not to young ladies at the table - or at least not when I'm there!
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Beautiful, Thoughtful, With Some Outstanding Moments
This is a beautiful and thoughtful film about the changes occurring in Sicily after 1860, with the unification of Italy and the disappearance of the old Kingdom of Sicily. It explores these changes and and changing role of the old aristocracy through the experiences of the Prince of Salina. Overall it is an excellent film with many beautiful scenes, much contemplation, and a great exploration of the prince's character, views, a realisations.
It has some absolutely incredible moments, particularly the grand ball at the end, which is handled wonderfully. The film perfectly captures the prince's feelings, sadness, and sense of separation or isolation from the rest of the seemingly happy people at the ball and I don't think that I have ever seen this phenomenon handled so powerfully. The whole atmosphere of the ball, with the prince sweating and feeling in a daze while others laugh, giggle, dance and gossip, is wonderful, as is the horrible din while people go to get food and chat away whilst eating. It is unusual in that it perfectly captures such negative aspects of big, "festive" parties so rarely even addressed, much less demonstrated so flawlessly. The fact that such feelings of isolation and the like are a fundamental reality of big parties, especially when one has a lot on one's mind, makes this all the more forceful and compelling.
However, the film has some weaknesses. It does not bring everything together quite perfectly and fails to completely hit the nail on the head. I understand the transformations in the film and the prince's emotions, yet there is too little information underlying all of this too really see the bases for these thoughts, etc. I needed to extrapolate and rely on my own knowledge of the historical circumstances, none of which really should be necessary. The result is that I can easily see how audiences may be confused or uncertain what it's all really about. Moreover, it introduces scenes or issues that seem to have no point, lack an explanation, and go nowhere. Some seem at first to have significance, but then go nowhere and this tends to distract from the central plot and themes of the film while leading to potential confusion about the point of the scenes, as well as expectations that the issues will arise again. However, while these points to me prevent this from being the absolute masterpiece that it could have been, they do not seriously detract from the film and are only minor dents in the film's incredible strengths.
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