August 20, 2004

Visconti's The Leopard

While I have a few problems with Netflix, generally itís been a convenient addition to my life. More than that, itís been an addition thatís given me the chance to view fine movies that I otherwise wouldnít have the chance to see. My most recent rental was very fine indeed, Luchino Viscontiís The Leopard, a 1960ís classic recently released on DVD (actually, if you live in or near New York itís being screened at the Film Forum through the 24th). I should first note that the DVD is a gem. This is far better than the version that was released in the U.S. in the 1960ís. The awful dubbing is gone, and scenes that were excised for the U.S. release have been put back in. And the movie contains an excellent commentary track by a film critic/scholar. Itís one of the most insightful commentaries Iíve heard in some time, and if you really want to understand the film you should definitely watch it. As to the film itself, imagine Gone With the Wind (itís the 1860ís, there is a war, the ancien regime is crumbling and uncouth parvenus are rising), but set in Sicily and with the melodrama toned down. Itís a truly grand tale, and a production that was probably very influential (more than once I caught myself thinking, ah Coppola must have liked that, or Scorsese must have liked that). Since this is Visconti you have every minute detail done exactly right whether youíre talking about costumes, sets, lighting, photography, or score. The man created beautiful art and demanded that everything precisely fit the period (even if that meant burying shirts to get them to turn the right shade of red). While it could be seen as just another costume drama examining the fall of an out-of-touch elite (albeit a particularly sumptuous one), itís somewhat deeper than that. It manages to be both touching and grand spectacle. While you can understand the film on a thematic level (there is a clear political subtext), the characters are real people as well as symbols. This is the second Visconti film Iíve seen (I was also very impressed by The Damned) Ė Iím very much looking forward to seeing a third.

Posted by armand at August 20, 2004 09:46 AM | TrackBack | Posted to Movies

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