Visconti’s story about an aging Sicilian prince who finds himself and, for that matter, his entire social strata on the brink of extinction is a staggering and richly evocative work of art. The Leopard is an astonishing examination of how the 19th century Sicilian aristocracy, personified in Burt Lancaster’s magisterial Don Fabrizio Salina, finds itself inevitably more politicized, more enmeshed with the destiny of greater Italy and less disposed to charting its own provincial course. I’ve never seen art direction and cinematography in such gorgeous harmony; the interiors, with their plush fabrics and antiques, are sumptuous, captured by cinematographer Giuseppe Rotunno in these breathtaking wide shots, pulled far enough back to encompass epic-sized paintings on the walls. The deep staging, where you can see through doorways into three receding rooms, full of opulently attired guests attending a banquet knocked me out. The costumes, the compositions, the green and rugged Sicilian landscape, they all become living entities in Visconti’s story, an intimate character study played against an epic canvas. Vividly shot, beautifully acted, and paced slowly, deliberately, gathering a kind of power that only a true master can conjure. This is a passionate, deeply felt, uncommonly literate masterpiece of cinema.
Directed by: Luchino Visconti
Written by: Suso Cecchi d’Amico, Pasquale Festa Campanile, Enrico Medioli, Massimo Franciosa, Luchino Visconti
Cast: Burt Lancaster, Claudia Cardinale, Alain Delon, Paolo Stoppa, Rina Morelli