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Historical evocation of Ludwig, king of Bavaria, from his crowning in 1864 until his death in 1886, as a romantic hero. Fan of Richard Wagner, betrayed by him, in love with his cousin ... 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
Could it be that Visconti's 1963 epic--long lying in ruins until its 1983 partial restoration--is the greatest movie ever made? The real subject of this movie, surely the wisest and most beautiful of all "period pictures," is the twentieth century--what has been gained and above all what is lost. Only a Marxist duke like Visconti could have had the split sensibility, and the anecdotal knowhow, to render Sicily just before its entry to modernity with the splendor and the caginess that radiates through every frame of this masterpiece. As the prince making final compromises before leaving the faded world he has inherited, Burt Lancaster gives one of the greatest performances in movies. Possessed of both an elegiac melancholy and a shrewd, dry-eyed appraisal of the failures and the glorious extroversion of its aristocratic world, THE LEOPARD is like a dream you can't bear to let go of. Contemporary viewers will see echoes of THE DEER HUNTER, 1900 and THE AGE OF INNOCENCE--and will see those films shrivel to the size of cocktail franks.
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