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
The same year he finished 8½ (1963), Nino Rota dusted off an old symphony of his own composition, he proposed it to Luchino Visconti for this film, the director loved it, and it became the score for this fresco of the social and political changes in Sicily in the midst of the 19th century. The editor Mario Serandrei had given Visconti as a present the sheet music of an unpublished waltz by Giuseppe Verdi that he had found in one drawer of an old chest he bought in a flea market. Rota added this composition to the long final ball sequence. 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 »
The nobles, as you call them, are not easy to understand. They live in a world of their own, not created by God but by themselves, through centuries of experience, troubles and joys. They're upset or pleased about things that matter little to you and me - but are vital to them. I don't mean they're bad people. Far from it. They're... different. They take no notice of things that we hold important, and they have fears of which we're ignorant. For example, for the Prince of Salina, it would be a ...
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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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