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
Director Luchino Visconti was disappointed that the producers of the film insisted on casting Burt Lancaster in the lead role, because he felt he was not right for the part. This caused tension between the two during the first few weeks of filming. Visconti's harsh treatment toward Lancaster eventually led to the actor publicly confronting him on the set. Visconti was so impressed with the passion and sincerity that Lancaster displayed during his tirade that the two developed a close and amicable relationship for the rest of the filming process. 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 »
Burt Lancaster plays a true aristocrat in an aristocracy that is not an aristocracy. The degeneracy as well as the sophistication of the rival political factions in warring Sicily is shown, and the human insight of the central character that embodies true nobility, even though he is largely powerless to make his ideals reality. Garibaldi is invading Sicily with an army of a thousand, landing in Marsala and advancing through Palermo. Prince Salina (Lancaster) is a noble of a disappearing age. He refuses a place in the new senate and is unable to convince the new wave that the unification will not be good for Sicily. He is caught between different loyalties. A love story between his nephew (played by Alain Delon) and a rich merchant's daughter (played by Claudia Cardinale) interweaves the action and heightens the moral dilemmas that Prince Salina has to face. A brave film, opposing, exposing and opposed by government and church. The full length restored edition is a cinematic gem and the opulent costumes and scenery are a treasure to behold.
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