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A Prince among films
DrMMGilchrist21 June 2004
Warning: Spoilers
I had longed to see this film for years, having only seen b/w stills and brief clips. Finally, Glasgow Film Theatre got a new print in their Visconti retrospective in 2003, and it was certainly worth the wait!

'Il Gattopardo' is a marvellous film, a magnificently realised slice of 19C history presented through the lives of engaging but humanly fallible characters. Don Fabrizio, Prince of Salina, is a shrewd, benevolent man of 45, trying to navigate a passage for his family through the social and political turmoil of the Risorgimento in Sicily. (I was stunned that some reviewers thought there was too much discussion of politics in the film - it is essential to the story and its context!) Burt Lancaster gives surely his greatest performance as Don Fabrizio, coming to terms with the fact that he is among the last of a dying breed: born too late to dwell in an unchanging aristocratic world, but too early to adapt fully to the modern world, unlike his nephew Tancredi Falconeri (Alain Delon). As he tells the royal envoy from the mainland: "We are the leopards, the lions; after us will come the jackals and hyenas".

Tancredi embodies the best and worst of the rising generation: he is dashing and full of vitality, but he breaks the heart of his shy, sensitive cousin Concetta (Lucilla Morlacchi), and is just as fickle in his political loyalties - although this ensures he will survive in the new Italy. His engagement to Angelica Sedara (Claudia Cardinale), daughter of the nouveau-riche mayor, secures the family's future. Angelica is a fine example of how well the characters are drawn: no idealised romantic heroine, but a vital, beautiful girl with a vulgar streak. She laughs interminably and loudly at Tancredi's coarse jokes at the table - not how a 19C young lady was expected to behave: you sense the cringes this induces in the rest of the family, despite the fact she is 'a good catch' in material terms, and is basically good.

The other supporting characters are worth attention, delineated with affectionate humour: Angelica's social-climbing father; Princess Maria Stella (Rina Morelli), with her glum piety and fits of the vapours (one can easily believe her husband's quip, "We have seven children, but I've never even seen her navel!"); the family chaplain, Father Pirrone (Romolo Valli), with whom Don Fabrizio has amusing bouts of verbal sparring.

But it is as much the look of this film, besides the intelligent script and excellent characterisations, which makes it so special. The costumes are among the best I have ever seen in a 19C-set film. The landscape and architecture of Sicily are shown to tremendous effect: you can feel the heat, the dust. Dust? Yes - and that is one of the best things about the film: its physical realism. When the characters go on long carriage journeys, they get visibly dusty; their palaces have shabby, disused rooms and semi-derelict wings, as well as majolica floors; the all-night ball - a tour-de-force of colour and spectacle - results in a retiring-room full of used chamber-pots; the rural villages are as dilapidated as picturesque. Too many costume dramas present perpetually well-groomed characters in immaculate environments, no dirt or untidiness: 'Il Gattopardo' does not.

The film ends with Don Fabrizio walking home after the ball, having come to terms with his mortality and seen the younger generation preparing to take centre stage. If you want to meet him again in his final years, and see what becomes of Concetta and Angelica as the 20C dawns, then read Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa's original novel, of which this exquisite film is a faithful and sensitive adaptation.

And to see the characters now? About the same time I first saw this film, I got a picture-book of the mummies of Palermo: fragile parchment-skin and bone in fraying 18-19C finery. The same sense of the transience of beauty, of change and mortality, pervades the mummies and the film alike: one auburn-haired youth even resembles Francesco Paolo, the Salinas' young son. "Dust and ashes!" writes Browning; "Mais où sont les neiges d'antan?" says Villon. But thanks to Visconti's masterpiece, we can still see 'the snows of last year' at the point of their dissolution.
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A extraordinary masterpiece: see the UNCUT version.
coop-161 February 2000
If you ever have the chance to see this magnificent film in an uncut, fully restored version, with good subtitles...DO IT. This is a film of astonishing beauty, bristling with ideas and magnificent performances.Like all truly great films it is full of sublime SCENES: Prince Tancredi riding off to war in his carriage., the astonishing ball sequence, when Prince Salina gazes at the painting and comes to grips with his own mortality,and the unforgettable end, when Salina kneels on the ground and speaks to the stars.Coppola, Cimino, and Scorsese all saw this film and learned from it..the Godfather echoes it repeatedly( in fact all THREE Godfathers echo it repeatedly). Scorsese once ranked it with The Red Shoes, Citizen Kane, Otto e Mezzo and The Searchers as one of the films he "lives by." Seeing it, one understands.
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Portrait of powerful yet reflective man, who doesn't abuse his power
Peegee-313 September 2000
This beautiful film, which I saw some time ago, remains in my memory as a profound study of a man in a position of power who thinks, reflects on important values, as well as his own aging process...and yet the film is never static. Burt Lancaster gave a brilliant performance...which I read was his favorite role. Visually, it is stunning. The long dance scene with Claudia Cardinale is justifiably of the sexiest scenes on film, in my opinion. To anyone interested in serious concerns, cinematically expressed with grace and intelligence, I would urge you to see this splendid film.
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Visconti's best film and the Greatest Italian Film of All Time...
artihcus02210 March 2009
Luchino Visconti was the last scion of the Visconti di Modrone family, one of the oldest and richest families in Italy. He was also a lifelong member of the Communist party, whose first major masterpiece, LA TERRA TREMA is one of the harshest and most compassionate films about the lives of Sicilian fishermen, which was furthermore shot in the Sicilian dialect and released in Northern Italy with the appropriate subtitles. Andre Bazin noted that the fishermen of that film seemed imbued with the nobility of Renaissance Princes. As an artist, Visconti was like his greatest character, Prince Fabrizio, "straddling two worlds and not comfortable in either." "The Leopard" is set in the period of the Risorgimento, the Re-Unification of Italy. It was in this period that a group of principalities and isolated city-states grouped together to form a single nation, the Modern Italy more or less as it exists today. The film is however set in Sicily, the small island situated below the toes of the Giant Boot of Italy. A small island that in centuries was invaded and conquered by foreign nations and rulers and never had a say in the running of it's land. The promise of "being a free state in a free country", articulated by the Chevalley(Leslie French), is for the Sicilians, too late or not enough, when they are charitable or merely the latest in a long line of outsider powers ruling the small region of golden fields and beautiful mountains that is uncaring of the problems of the people or the Salina family.

In the middle of this turmoil is Don Fabrizio Corbera, the Prince of Salina. A fictional aristocrat modeled in part on the grandfather of Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa. As incarnated by Burt Lancaster, Salina is a man of great presence and intelligence, he claims he is 45 but realizes at once that he is already very old when he learns that his daughter Conchetta is in love with his nephew Tancredi Falconeri(Alain Delon). He realizes that his daughter is no match for the ambitious and handsome nephew and that all his family has left is a name and fading splendor but no money at all. However Anjelica Sedara(Claudia Cardinale) is a Goddess and her father is as rich and upwardly mobile as he is crass and vulgar.

IL GATTOPARDO is a film that deals with the birth of the Middle Class. 19th Century Europe witnesses the slow disintegration of the aristocratic families and the arrival of the middle-class mercantile consumerist faction in it's wake. The film more importantly shows this process, gradually and symbolically but also precisely rendering the machinations in detail. Dozens of films can recreate history by simply play-acting an event, it's another thing to show it as a process. This is one of the great achievements of Visconti. The middle-class, the bourgeoisie will take power but it can do so step by step. First it supports a peasant-led popular revolution only to compromise it, then it accepts democracy only to sabotage it, and then through marriage establishing itself as the chief ruling class of a nation giving the old Leopards a shiny new cage in a stately zoo, in effect allowing the aristocracy to survive as the walking dead.

Released in 1963, Visconti's film must have felt a little incongruous. A big international production on a scale not seen since the commercial disaster of Ophuls' LOLA MONTES, an adaptation of a respected literary source and starring popular international stars - Lancaster, Delon, Cardinale. This was the period of the French New Wave of Modern Italian cinema as embodied in Antonioni and Fellini(Cardinale in fact went back and forth between this film and 8 1/2, essentially in two separate solar systems). Yet Visconti's film could not be conceivable any other way. A film about the dying aristocracy, this film is also about the classical tradition embodied in that culture which is slowly disappearing and which Visconti, despite being a progressive, was a product of.

So THE LEOPARD is also self-reflexive about it's own style and mode of storytelling, yet the ending of the film is also vastly more different and more richer than that of the novel that it takes as a source. The novel written by a cynical aristocrat dilettante is a work of great emotions the chief being nostalgia for the old ways. This nostalgia is tossed out by Visconti, alongside its shameless misogyny. In the transaction the characters are richer and deeper than their literary forebears.

Visconti put his entire heart and soul into THE LEOPARD. You will never see widescreen and colour used as powerfully in all of cinema as it is used in this film. Light, colour, camera movement and the movement of the actors is choreographed in a single whole, the framing has a depth of field that is unparalleled in film history, comparable only to the works of Welles, Ophuls and Mizoguchi. This is a true spectacle - rich and grand, yet personal and intimate.
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Touches on the true meaning of aristocracy
Chris_Docker3 June 2003
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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a film that just gets better with age, yours and its own!
humewood18 July 2004
I was rounding off a two year study in France in 1963 and I remember gazing at the marquee of a cinema in Paris shortly after the Cannes Festival, seeing "Le Guepard" advertised, beautiful Claudia Cardinale waltzing with handsome, courtly, Burt Lancaster. At the time, I made a mental note to see the movie but in fact, saw it for the first time many years later, on a black and white TV no less! Chopped up and edited as it was, in black and white, the film moved me immensely. I was absolutely thunderstruck by the dialogue which, when I read the Prince of Lampedusa's novel shortly after, I realized had been "lifted" verbatim from the novel in large chunks. What a novel and what a worthy and noble tribute to it Visconti has paid. I now own the Criterion three disk set of Il Gattopardo and never tire of watching what is for me, one of the great films of the twentieth century. Burt Lancaster, as the Prince of Salina, was an inspired choice for the cinematic role, though apparently he was not Luchino Visconti's choice. I think the Prince of Salina is Lancaster's finest performance.
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Beautiful, Thoughtful, With Some Outstanding Moments
Wulfstan109 August 2006
This is a beautiful and thoughtful film about the changes occurring in Sicily after 1860, with the unification of Italy and the disappearance of the old Kingdom of Sicily. It explores these changes and and changing role of the old aristocracy through the experiences of the Prince of Salina. Overall it is an excellent film with many beautiful scenes, much contemplation, and a great exploration of the prince's character, views, a realisations.

It has some absolutely incredible moments, particularly the grand ball at the end, which is handled wonderfully. The film perfectly captures the prince's feelings, sadness, and sense of separation or isolation from the rest of the seemingly happy people at the ball and I don't think that I have ever seen this phenomenon handled so powerfully. The whole atmosphere of the ball, with the prince sweating and feeling in a daze while others laugh, giggle, dance and gossip, is wonderful, as is the horrible din while people go to get food and chat away whilst eating. It is unusual in that it perfectly captures such negative aspects of big, "festive" parties so rarely even addressed, much less demonstrated so flawlessly. The fact that such feelings of isolation and the like are a fundamental reality of big parties, especially when one has a lot on one's mind, makes this all the more forceful and compelling.

However, the film has some weaknesses. It does not bring everything together quite perfectly and fails to completely hit the nail on the head. I understand the transformations in the film and the prince's emotions, yet there is too little information underlying all of this too really see the bases for these thoughts, etc. I needed to extrapolate and rely on my own knowledge of the historical circumstances, none of which really should be necessary. The result is that I can easily see how audiences may be confused or uncertain what it's all really about. Moreover, it introduces scenes or issues that seem to have no point, lack an explanation, and go nowhere. Some seem at first to have significance, but then go nowhere and this tends to distract from the central plot and themes of the film while leading to potential confusion about the point of the scenes, as well as expectations that the issues will arise again. However, while these points to me prevent this from being the absolute masterpiece that it could have been, they do not seriously detract from the film and are only minor dents in the film's incredible strengths.
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An ennobling experience.
BrentCarleton23 June 2006
"The Leopard" is not only one of the most accomplished films of the twentieth century, but one of the most successful adaptations of a novel to the screen. Rarely has a scenarist so effectively translated the essence of a novel without compromising the source material.

This is not to say that anyone should approach the film before the Lambedusa novel. Indeed, this film might well be considered as a companion to the book--the two being almost interdependent.

Still, the depth, richness, and complexity that Mr. Visconti achieves here justifies a lengthy treatise in and of itself. Equally important is a familiarity with the social background of the story, a piece of history destined to be lost on not a few Americans. Nonetheless, the viewer is encouraged to familiarize himself with the life, writings and allocutions of Pope Pius IX, (particularly his "Syllabus of Errors"), the campaigns of Garibaldi and Mazzini, and the criminal theft of the temporal dominion of the Papacy, effected by a variety of Socialist and Masonic cabals.

But back to Mr. Visconti's film: enough good things cannot be said of it. Often, great visual films are compared to paintings and certainly the comparison is most apt here. Each frame seems to breathe a life of its own.

One is simply staggered by the beauty of the compositions--each scenic tableaux not only intelligently employs the width of the Cinemascope screen to artistic advantage, but even manages, (as in the case, again, of a great painting) to visually probe the novel's subtext.

The casting could not be improved upon. If on paper, Burt Lancaster, seems an odd choice, (what with his Curriculum Vitae brimming with gangsters, cowboys, athletes, and acrobats) he, nonetheless fully realizes both Lambedusa and Visconti's vision, creating a man with the intelligence to see not only his own life ebbing away, but recognizing that the order he embodies, and represents is also simultaneously collapsing.

In short, Mr. Lancaster's character personifies nothing short of a tragic loss--the collapse of the noble/aristocratic and chivalric European world order, and, with it, the complex value system, and interdependent mode of decorous deportment that the value system supported, (welcome to the Welfare State, "progressivist" social engineering, and the enshrinement of the declasse.)

Though her character is tainted with arriviste origins, Claudia Cardinale enchants in her interpretation of Angelica. Note the way Mr. Visconti stages her entrance in one of the film's most memorable sequences. As the family gathers in the salon prior to a small dinner party, an anticipatory rustle signals Angelica's arrival. Framed over and through an oil lamp and spray of daisies, and underscored by a recapitulation of Nino Rota's main theme, she glides through the salon, a vision in cream taffeta, elaborate chignon, and a rose at her bosom, plainly enrapturing and even intimidating the entire party. The pitch and sincerity of her voice and diction as she greets the Prince is a marvel of growing self possession.

Miss Cardinale's beauty is of a rare order, and Alain Delon is nearly her match, with a gallantry and swagger that perfectly encapsulate Tancredi. Supporting roles from the Jesuit to Angelica's father are flawless both in type and execution.

The ball sequence defies comment. It is truly one of those things, for which the phrase, "must be seen to be believed" may be applied. The viewer can almost touch the watered silk swagged drapes, feel the swish of embroidered gowns, taste the flavored ices and blanc manges, and smell the liquored air, a waft with the heady mixture of verbena and attar of roses.

When, at the scene's near close, we behold an depleted elderly woman in green silk fanning herself in the far right side of the frame whilst some brave young things continue their exhausted dance, we seem to be viewing a Tissot come to life.

And Nino Rota must be complimented on his majestic score, the main theme of which is of heart breaking beauty and tenderness.

Ironically, "The Leopard" will scarcely find populist appeal in a country for whom MacDonalds, Wallmart, and Oprah appear to provide all that is needed or wished for. No, it is not intended to be accessible to every Tom, Dick or Harry. This would surprise neither Prince Lambedusa or Mr. Visconti.

But for those who know better--savor it! "The Leopard" seeps into one's pores like a drug, after which it demands to be seen again and again.
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it's one of Visconti's most ambitious and gorgeous films
Quinoa198418 August 2004
What I found most fascinating, though this would exclude the character of Fabrizio Salina (played dead-on by Burt Lancaster) and the images captured time and time again, is that The Leopard is practically a 180 from Visconti's breakthroughs. Think of Ossessione and La Terra Trema and any film buff will think of neo-realism, the plight of the under-valued, the emerging form of power in the simplest stories, the most heartbreaking images. By the time it came around to the Leopard, Visconti was still making personal movies, but here with the Leopard instead of it being a grainy black and white, full screen film set in the present and detailing the lower classes in their communities, it's a sumptuous widescreen technicolor feat telling the story of aristocracy in 1860 Italy. But, luckily, Visconti doesn't disappoint- this is a rich film, one that I may not have been able to penetrate on the first viewing, and I don't know how many viewings it will take me to do so.

The lead character, a Count (Lancaster), has to face up with the changing times- not only is an end coming to a ruling class that has been more or less on rules for about 2500 years, his nephew Tancredi (played in a wonderful early performance by Alain Deleon) is in love with a fellow Don, Calogero's (Stoppa, genuinely slimy and interesting aristocrat) daughter Angelica (Claudia Cardinale, who makes Catherine Zeta Jones seem like an every-girl in the looks and persona department). A revolution seems on the way, but it is ceased, and meanwhile the Prince sees that things are changing, but as one quotes, "things will stay the same".

The Leopard is many things- philosophical treatise on the nature of the ruling class with all that is to offer when looking down on the 'little people'; classic, novel-type love story with characters not going into the realm of soap; it's a feast for the eyes and the ears- Giusseppe Rotuno and Nino Rota turn in five of their greatest pieces of work respectively (even when a character may be talking and it may not be terribly interesting, looking at the shots that unfold is not deterring in the least). Although the drama that unfolds at times isn't as compelling as in Visconti's neo-realist efforts, and the fact that this is in another country going back nearly a hundred and fifty years (the distance as opposed to recognizability of the family in the fishing village of La Terra Trema), it is a treat to see.

And, indeed, after seeing it on a big screen (a rare occasion, thanks to the Film Forum theater in New York), it perhaps one of the finest widescreen films to come out of Italy in the past fifty years. A masterful sequence is to behold as well- the ballroom sequence, where the tones are instinctively precise. Bottom line, this is (one of) the ultimate aristocrat-turned-Marxist take(s) on 19th century Italy and Sicily.
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Glamorous as well as spectacular historical drama about the uprising of 1860's Sicily during the unification of Italy
ma-cortes11 May 2015
This known novel is magnificently brought to the screen with colorful images , impressive soundtrack , visually absorbing cinematography and sensitive as well as thoughtful events . An epic story dealing with Fabrizio Cordero , the Prince of Salina , the Leopard (Burt Lancaster , though 20th Century Fox asked Visconti to choose from among Anthony Quinn, Spencer Tracy and Lancaster ; Luchino wanted Laurence Olivier for the title role and he wanted to cast Nikolai Cherkasov , too). Salina is an upright aristocrat who attempts coming to terms with the new rulers of Sicily as well as overcome his family and class amid the troublesome social upheavals . Fabrizio observes the waning of his noble home and attempts to help build a new Sicily but his nephew Tancredi (Alain Delon , though Horst Buchholz turned down the role) , Prince of Falconeri (Alain Delon) assures his status by marrying Don Calogero Sedara's (Paolo Stoppa) gorgeous daughter Angelica (Claudia Cardinale) .

Luchino Visconti's enduring romantic adventure deals with the tumultuous social upheavals of 1860's Sicily , and it is paced in slow and deliberate rhythm . The film traces the rising and falling of Fabrizio Corbero , Prince of Salina and the corresponding rise to eminence of the hugely wealthy ex-peasant Don Calogero . However , the film results to be overlong , it seems longer than its 187 minutes running time . Based on the classic novel written by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa , being scripted by Suso Cecchi D'Amico , Pasquale Festa Campanile and considered to be the best screen adaptation ever . Such was Luchino Visconti's attention to detail that it was shot in actual historical palaces , including authentic pictures , objects and tools . Concluding the climatic scene in the sumptuous forty-minute ball and long banquet where Tancredi introduces Angelica to society , it is deemed to be one of the greatest set pieces in film history . Originally released in USA in a badly dubbed 165 minutes version , picture was restored in 1983 to proper form .

Masterful interpretation by the great Burt Lancaster , The Prince of Salina , a noble aristocrat of impeccable integrity who tries to preserve his family against their dark destination and nice acting by Alain Delon as his ambitious nephew who swims with the tide and assures his own position . Support cast is pretty well , they give top-notch performances such as Paolo Stoppa , Romolo Valli , Terence Hill , Pierre Clémenti , Giuliano Gemma and Ida Galli . Colorful and evocative cinematography in Technirama wide screen system, by Giuseppe Rotunno . Classical and emotive score by Nino Rota . The motion picture was masterfully directed by Luchino Visconti and was shot over 11 of the hottest weeks of the year , being Martin Scorsese's favorite movie .

This celebrated story was well based on historical deeds , these were the followings : Sicily was invaded by "A corps of volunteers led by Giuseppe Garibaldi landed in Sicily in order to conquer the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, ruled by the Bourbons" . The Expedition of the Thousand was an event of the Italian Risorgimento that took place in 1860. A corps of volunteers led by Giuseppe Garibaldi landed in Sicily in order to conquer the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, ruled by the Bourbons. The project was an ambitious and risky venture aiming to conquer, with a thousand men, a kingdom with a larger regular army and a more powerful navy. The expedition was a success and concluded with a plebiscite that brought Naples and Sicily into the Kingdom of Sardinia, the last territorial conquest before the creation of the Kingdom of Italy on 17 March 1861.The sea venture was the only desired action that was jointly decided by the "four fathers of the nation" Giuseppe Mazzini, Giuseppe Garibaldi, Victor Emmanuel II, and Camillo Cavour, pursuing divergent goals. It is difficult to determine the true instigator: Mazzini desired to release the Mezzogiorno and Rome, whereas Garibaldi wanted to conquer in the name of Victor Emmanuel II, the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies and continue to Rome to complete the unity of Italy, and Cavour wanted to avoid at all costs conflict with his French ally, Napoleon III, who protected Rome.The expedition also brings new large collective ambiguity and misunderstanding: for Garibaldi, it is to achieve a united Italy; to the Sicilian bourgeoisie, an independent Sicily as part of the kingdom of Italy, and for the mass farmers, the end of oppression and land distribution
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Visconti's Italian epic provided a curious change of pace…
Nazi_Fighter_David6 April 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Visconti was widely praised for both the realism and vaguely politicized tone of his early films, and the operatic sumptuousness of his later historical costume dramas… Throughout his career, however, style dominated content; all too often, the result was a decorative melodrama disguised as solemn, socially significant art…

Adapted from an internationally popular novel by Giuseppe Tomassi di Lampedusa, it was termed a masterpiece by some and a bore by others… Certainly, it was deliberately paced, with minute attention given to period detail…

A prime example is Visconti's climactic and grandiose ballroom sequence, which seems to fill one-third of the film… But the director presented the charm and manners of a bygone era so masterfully… "The Leopard" saw a return to a long, lushly historical drama, observing an aristocratic family's reluctant but inevitable acquiescence to a son's romance with a middle-class girl, set against the backdrop of Garibaldi's unification of Italy…
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The lost world
nunculus10 August 1999
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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Exhausting, rewarding
poikkeus13 September 2004
Luchino Visconti directed this rich, emotional, and intellectually rewarding study of the aristocracy in 19th century Sicily. Starring Burt Lancaster (his voice well-dubbed in his very best role), this would qualify as a character study if its canvas weren't so large.

As Garibaldi burns his way to a possible worker's revolution, the upper class seems to circle in a different orbit, taking vacations while the situation is at its least stable. With mutton chops beard and careful bearing, Lancaster is very much the Leopard, slyly shifting alliances when it's to his advantage. That's why his protégé (Alain Delon) is so likable to him, a young leopard certain to earn his own place.

This is more a film of character and theme, taking its time to show the contrasts between rich and poor, young and old. The famous ballroom sequence at the end of the film ties it all together with sensitivity and sadness.

The Leopoard requires some patience, but there's much to like. Fans of classic Italian cinema would be advised to seek out the full-length version.
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A lamenting farewell to vanishing beauty
ericcaers24 December 2005
Following his personal motto, "something has to change in order to keep everything in place," authoritative prince Fabrizio di Salina (Burt Lancaster) secures his position, and that of his social class, by resigning himself to the "Risorgimento" and making a pact with the representatives of the bourgeoisie. He marries his nephew, Tancredi Falconeri (Alain Delon) to the daughter of a nouveau riche mayor (Claudia Cardinale), who should infuse fresh blood into an old bloodline threatened with extinction: the alliance between "the Leopard" and "the Jackal" exemplifies the blend between old and new. The collector's box of this film includes an interview with Alain Delon who, in retrospect, claims that Visconti had almost played the role of prince Salina himself, given the analogies between the two characters. Like Salina, Visconti preoccupied himself with questions of disappearing social class and transience. Beyond the splendour and revelry in his films always lies a dark horizon, the imminence of death, whose premonitory signs are perceived everywhere. The closing marriage scene is a lamenting farewell to vanishing beauty. Awesome Burt Lancaster in tuxedo looks into the mirror and tears well up in his eyes. Outside, a coffin is brought out. Majestic grandeur and striking dignity intertwine with elegiac melancholy, grief and regret. The perfect illustration of Friedrich Schiller's definition of tragedy: "Tragedy is not synonymous with suffering. Rather, tragedy is the futile protest of the individual against inevitable suffering". Delon claims that today he finds himself unable to watch the film, which evokes memories and images from a world long since forgotten, let alone listen to the soundtrack, "qui me fait pleurer"...
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Paintings in Movement
claudio_carvalho18 January 2006
"Il Gattopardo" is another fantastic and grandiose movie of the aristocratic Marxist artist Luchino Viscontti. The story of the decadence of the Italian aristocracy with the unification of Italy, "Il Risorgimento", in 1860, is presented in Sicily through the eyes of the noble and clever Prince Don Fabrizio Salina, magnificently played by Burt Lancaster. It is amazing to see the cinematography and costume design, the details of each scene, which give me the sensation of being in a museum watching pictures at an exhibition, indeed paintings in movement. The shinning beauty of Claudia Cardinale dancing with the elegant Burt Lancaster is simply wonderful. The DVD released in Brazil by Versátil Distributor has 185 minutes running time, was completely restored and has more than two hours of Extras, honoring respectfully the memory of Luchino Viscontti. My vote is nine.

Title (Brazil): "O Leopardo" ("The Leopard")
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Less Ephemeral than Modern Top Notch Prod-actions; the Essence of Great Cinema
marcin_kukuczka20 June 2010
Having seen most of maestro Visconti's movies, THE LEOPARD, unlike the majority of cinema works, constitutes one of the films I find really hard to review. Its undeniable magnificence as well as its great significance in cinema make me, a simple viewer, sort of speechless. So many eminent movie critics have already said much. What more can I say? Yet, since everyone perceives art in the individual manner, I hope that I won't make anyone angry by sharing with you my personal thoughts about this wonderful film, the film I have come back to many times with true delight.

When viewing the movie for the first time, I was motivated by three major reasons: its content, its director and its locations.

First, being based on the novel by Giuseppe Lampedusa the story is set in the critical period of Italian history, the Risorgimento when, as Geoffrey Nowell-Smith nicely put it, "the bourgeoisie marry into the aristocracy and the Byronic aristocrat sinks gently into Bien-Pensant mediocrity as the revolutionary storm subsides." What other period of this country's history can better highlight the generation gap? That is bound to result in excellent, thought provoking production.

Second, Luchino Visconti as a director and an aristocrat resembled all spirit of magnificence. As a result, there was hardly anyone in Italy in the 1960s who could portray aristocracy as well as Visconti was able to. And in THE LEOPARD we find more Visconti's features than elsewhere. Pure greatness of every single detail!

Third, the locations of Sicily, the pearl of the Meditterraenean with its overwhelming history, beautiful architecture and glorious nature surely constitutes a crucial merit of the film. Among other places, we encounter the marvelous church of Ciminna near Palermo, the lovely gardens of the palaces and the splendid nature in the coastal Mondello. Here, I would like to quote the words of Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe who, having traveled to Sicily, said: "To have seen Italy without having seen Sicily is to not have seen Italy at all, for in Sicily lies the key to everything."

But, when I saw the film again and again, I was mesmerized by THE LEOPARD to the extend I now consider it a masterpiece at multiple levels. Why?

The international cast give brilliant almost wondrous performances by feeling their roles and letting true character developments become reality. The first mention, of course, must be made of the actor who, as a matter of fact, replaced great Laurence Olivier similarly to 1933 MGM production when John Gilbert once replaced Mr Olivier in Garbo classic. That actor is Burt Lancaster in the lead as the noble Prince Salina. The prince, on the one hand, appears to be quite open to changes 'so that all remains the same'' yet, on the other hand, rejects all possible participation in the Risorgimento and becomes more and more acquainted with the end yearning upward to the morning star. His character occurs to resemble the director himself, similarly to the protagonist portrayed by Mr Lancaster in CONVERSATION PIECE (1974). In order to represent the youth comes Alain Delon as energetic, passionate, vital Tancredi. Delon, in an excellent manner, highlights this youthful enthusiasm and desire for changes. Claudia Cardinale at his side as sensitive, delicious Angelica is unforgettable with her spontaneous, wild manners found so odd within the aristocratic splendor. Chemistry between Cardinale and Delon makes the pair particularly convincing. The performances from the supporting cast are also worth high attention, which, unfortunately, cannot be discussed in a single review. Just to mention Rina Morelli as Princess Salina and Paolo Stoppa as Don Calogero.

The artistry of the entire film is worth highest praise. That refers to the picture in general as well as to its concrete aspects, in particular music and sets. The music by great Nino Rota, a mainstay at eminent Italian masters of film art, is sublime. The tunes that combine passion with melancholy, spring of vitality with fall of nostalgia are a true masterwork. The sets together with breathtaking wardrobe and camera-work are feast for the eyes. A mention must be made of the climactic scene of the ball with the tunes of great waltz by Giuseppe Verdi. Another moment that particularly caught my attention was 'Te Deum Laudamus' at the Ciminna church and the close-ups of the faces that elbow with incense. Terrific!

Psychological depth, visual splendor, great character development, clever script, historical accuracy and subtle artistry...something you hardly find in many top notch productions filled with sex and action...that all makes THE LEOPARD an exceptional movie. Nevertheless, there also seems to be something mysterious, something that some viewers will capture, something more permanent that delicate heart longs for and may experience at a certain moment in life in order to be able to say with the prince his memorable line: "O faithful star! When will you give me an appointment less ephemeral than this?"
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Of mice and men
petra_ste8 November 2013
Warning: Spoilers
In 1860 Garibaldi and his volunteers conquered Sicily, defeating the Bourbons and setting the stage for Italian unification. In The Leopard, Visconti's adaptation of a great Italian novel, a noble Sicilian family, led by pater familias Don Fabrizio Salina (Burt Lancaster), faces this crucial event and its aftermath.

The film is impeccable, gorgeously shot with a great eye for colors, lighting and composition, luscious costumes and set design, a marvellous soundtrack by Nino Rota.

In one of the great examples of serendipitous casting in cinema history, Burt Lancaster was imposed upon Visconti by the production, much to the director's distrust: it turned out to be the best performance of Lancaster's career, as he perfectly embodied proud, educated, fiery, sensual Prince Fabrizio. Alain Delon plays his nephew Tancredi, the happy-go-lucky youngster who falls for beautiful social climber Angelica (a young and radiant Claudia Cardinale), daughter of nouveau riche Calogero Sedara (Paolo Stoppa). Every supporting performance is gold, with my favorite probably being Romolo Valli as keen, quietly disapproving priest Padre Pirrone.

The Leopard is about the entropic dissolution of life - rituals and divertissements like the famous ballroom scene are the last moments of a dying breed which is either desperately trying to adapt to a new world or tragically oblivious to it. With a sensitivity worthy of Tolstoy, the novel and the movie follow Fabrizio, torn between his intense physicality and a painful understanding of time running out for both himself and his class. The last waltz is for death itself.

"We were the leopards, the lions, those who take our place will be jackals and sheep, and the whole lot of us - leopards, lions, jackals and sheep - will continue to think ourselves the salt of the earth."

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okay, I guess I am the lone dissenter,...
MartinHafer11 September 2005
I just don't understand how this film is so highly rated. Although VERY beautifully filmed, it is, in my opinion, one of the MOST ponderous and boring films I have ever seen. Seeing this film, especially due to its length (I saw the restored version) was like seeing Lawrence of Arabia AFTER 9 hours of additional desert footage was added! It just seemed to go on and on and on. The final segment of the movie was set at a dinner party and it lasted about an hour when it easily could have been done better in about 10 minutes! Now there are some films that are three or more hours long and they are captivating throughout (such as "Ben Hur" or "Gone With The Wind"), but this film merited, at best, about two hours worth of film. Normal scenes that could have been done in seconds or just a few minutes seemed to take an eternity. I STRONGLY disagree about the notion of restoring the lost footage, as despite this the characters generally seemed very wooden and the action and intrigue were minimal. Perhaps the original American version WAS edited poorly BUT adding all this additional footage just didn't help.

Do NOT assume I dislike Italian films. I have really enjoyed many--just not this one.
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too, too dull
mer52-118 August 2010
i looked fwd to seeing this again after many years. I knew it had prestige and I vaguely recalled seeing it decades ago. I could hardly get through it...very boring. Yes the theme is compelling, Lancaster is good, and the sets, costumes and artfully composed, painterly scenes are beautiful and artistic. But this does not make for a 2 hour movie experience. I think it's pretentiouso and self involved and visconte lackes respect for an audience, to put them through such a monumental bore. The script and dubbing are offputting. The scene were claudia cardinalle at the dinner table comes out with that raucous, over done, over prolonged laugh is really exaggerated to the ridiculous. What was the point of that,and how did it fit in with overall plot and characteer? Was there a follow up? I may have missed it as I was half unconscious as the film wore on, and on and on. I wonder why lancaster was picked for this role, does anyone know?
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heartbreaking, gorgeous
kcvtb2 September 2004
To summarize, this film was released, dubbed and butchered, in the US in 1963/64, never released on video but occasionally seen in bootleg version. The British Film Institute did a restored print of the original Italian version in 2003. I saw it in a theater in London last summer and found it fabulous, not least for seeing it in the wide screen setting. It's now out on DVD on three disks: the restored print with Italian dialogue (Burt Lancaster dubbed into Italian -- it sounds wacky, but it works big time); a disk with the butchered English release version of forty years ago (valuable to see what they did, and also to hear Lancaster's own English); and a disk with supplementary materials including very interesting interviews with a wide variety of participants in the movie. Of the multi-hour blockbusters of the period, I'd put it behind Lawrence of Arabia, but very close to Doctor Zhivago and well ahead of Ryan's Daughter.

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Not a masterpiece, unfortunately...
arman061223 March 2018
I've been on IMDb for over 10 years and I've never written a review before, but this time I was so disappointed with this film that I needed to write something. The Leopard is a film that's universally praised, even the great Martin Scorsese hails it as an essential piece, so I expected a solid masterpiece, but that wasn't the case here. I'm a big fan of Death in Venice and Rocco and His Brothers (both directed by Visconti), I usually enjoy long period films and I'm not really concerned when "nothing happens" in a film, but that's because when a film doesn't have a clear plot, it usually involves some serious character development or images that tell a story, even if it's not linear; unfortunately this film gets lost in itself, not really knowing what it wants to be, it's incredibly uneven, the political aspect that provides the context seems rather superficial even if the dialogue is mostly about politics and in the end it doesn't commit to anything, we get the main character who is the only one who seems like a real human being and not a one-dimensional statue, and Lancaster does a very good job with what he's given, but he becomes a spectator to the central couple that could not be more bland and uninteresting, they're supposed to be young and full of life but they seem to be uncapable of any real emotion (and Alain Delon is usually a great actor) and there's no way the audience could actually care about them. The production design, cinematography, costumes and music are indeed remarkable, I don't know how the book tells the story because I haven't read it, but even if it's a faithful adaptation, there should have been some sort of work in character development, pacing and finding a central line, because even in a film that's simply about "a few moments in the life of a family" there should be a theme that's fully explored, and yes, Don Fabrizio has an arc, seeing he's no longer relevant in the world but that would've worked if the people around him actually felt like real people. At last I'd also like to mention that the dubbing IS a problem, a lot of people say that it shouldn't take you out of the story but isn't a truly great film in the sound era supposed to have audio correctly synced? That's actually a problem for most (if not all) Italian films from the 60s (including La Dolce Vita, and 8 1/2) and I just can't ignore it because it is ultimately a flaw. So overall, I would never call this a terrible film or even a truly bad one, but I would say it is ineffective, flawed and definitely not a masterpiece.
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Garibaldi comes to Sicily
RanchoTuVu17 February 2011
The island of Sicily becomes the next target of Italian unification as modernization and nationalism overtake one by one the old Italian kingdoms and principalities. Ruled by Prince Don Fabrizio Salina (Burt Lancaster), whose nephew Tancredi Falconeri (Alain Delon) has joined with the forces of Garibaldi, this movie recreates this fascinating history through the eyes and feelings of Salina, beautifully played by Lancaster, whose character neither welcomes the change nor seems to want to cling to the past, but is stretched between them both in a true ambiguity. The realization of the society as seen through the prince's extended family and his marvelous estate makes this film unbelievably intricate and fascinating. Though some may say it's a bit slow moving, the director Luchino Visconti, seemed to want us to enjoy each scene enough to let them play out in their entirety. Add in the most attractive Claudia Cardinale as the daughter of a peasant who's made it big and now represents the new money, as opposed to the old, who's set to marry into the prince's family through her engagement to Delon, and the film really starts to take off. Lancaster is still a good looking guy, and his waltz with Cardinale at this ball that lasts for more or less the last third of the film, knocks everyone out. Does the photography complement the art direction and design or is it vice versa? In any event, no more beautiful and thoughtful movie has probably ever been done.
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It's been 7 years and I still mourn the loss of the those 3 and a half hours
richieburt31 March 2009
One reviewer summarises the film as "moving paintings". That is incredibly accurate. Nothing and I mean NOTHING happens in this film. The film is undoubtedly beautifully shot, and if they removed 2 and a half hours of footage it MAY be worth sitting through under the guise of watching a piece of art like looking at a beautiful painting. However if you demand more than this from 3 and a half hours of your precious time then you will be incredibly disappointed.

I spent the whole film thinking something amazing was going to happen to reward the unbelievable boredom heaped upon the viewer. I watched it in a cinema, and 70% of the audience had fallen asleep around the 2 hour mark. I knew they were fools for allowing themselves to fall asleep for surely they were going to miss out on the most amazing film. After 3 and a half hours and after the most over long scene in the history of cinema (it made the wedding scene from Deer Hunter feel like a 5 minute blitz of action) the film just ends. It honestly felt as if the director had laboured and laboured with this film and in the end thought enough is enough I can't be bothered to finish this film, downed tools and went home. I looked at my sister-in-law (the only other person still awake) and we both laughed out loud when the credits rolled.

Watch this film at your own peril - you have been warned. You can never retrieve the time you'll waste watching this and you'll wish you can!
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Not Visconti's best
grendel-3710 June 2005
Checked out THE LEOPARD, the full, uncut, subtitled criterion version. and while it is without doubt a large, elaborate, well filmed spectacle, it has one glaring flaw... it's not that engaging. The first hour is interminable, with perhaps one of the largest, and most listless battle scenes ever caught on film.

When Visconti moves away from his uneven 1st hour, and his failed attempt to film the anarchy of the revolution, and gets back into personal relationships, his specialty, the film picks up.

While it never attains the sumptuous, wrenching power of Visconti's black and white Neo-Realistic masterpieces, such as the absolutely harrowing and brilliant ROCCO AND HIS THREE BROTHERS (also starring Alain Delon), it has moments of subtle satire, and dripping beauty. One of my favorite scenes in the movie is the return of the Noble family, after the revolution.

They come back to the town that has moved on, and they sit in church surrounded by people making a new destiny, the masses full of life and energy, and the Leopard and his family by comparison are dusty relics, looking mutely on, as the world leaves them behind, A brilliant visual moment.

However there are too few of those moments to sustain the films length. And much like the nobles it details, the film (mostly about indulgence and boredom) winds slowly down, slowly, like a tired machine. And finally, mercifully... stops. An interesting flawed film, far from great, far from the director's best, and not one I'd want to sit through again. ** out of ****.
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A leopard never changes its spots
tieman6421 November 2010
Warning: Spoilers
Luchino Visconti directs "The Leopard." The plot? Burt Lancaster plays Prince Fabrizio of Salina, an aristocratic Sicilian whose wealth, influence and way of life comes crumbling down during il Risorgimento, the social and political movement which led to the unification of Italy's states.

Whilst the once powerful Fabrizio watches as monarchical feudalism dies a slow death, his dashing young nephew, Tancredi Falconeri (Alain Delon), grows from an enlistee in Giuseppe Garibaldi's people's army to a master of modern realpolitik, switching to the cause of Camillio di Cavour, the scheming aristocrat (and eventual prime minister) who succeeded at unification where Garibaldi failed.

Like author Giseuppe Tomasi de Lampedusa, who wrote the book upon which "The Leopard" was based, Visconti was deeply committed to social and economic justice. Both artists were also the sons of aristocrats, and so were privy to the wheelings and dealings of power.

Visconti's unique vantage point thus imbues "The Leopard" with a certain sensitivity. Whilst his previous film, "Rocco and His Brothers", traces a peasant family's disintegration after their move to industrial Milan, "The Leopard" does virtually the same thing, coolly observing as the aristocracy crumbles under modernity. What's interesting is that whilst both films are elegiac tragedies, they don't only mourn the loss of a time and the fading of their respective social classes, but the fact that change is traumatic precisely because people refuse to let themselves change, whilst are paradoxically always willing to ruthlessly do anything to guarantee their future or place within what Visconti calls "the new consensus".

So an interesting tension emerges when watching Visconti's films in sequence. Whether it be the "The Damned", "Senso", "Ludwig", "Death In Venice", "The Leopard", "Conversation Piece", "Rocco and his Brothers" etc, we constantly see Visconti questioning progress, modernity, the rise of the bourgeois classes and nationalism. His characters are always trapped between times, between eras, between worlds, and his stance is always one of uncertainty. The nationalism of "Senso", for example, is portrayed as grand pageant of liberation and unification, whilst in "The Damned" such nationalism leads directly to Naziism. These polarities are found in all of his films, Visconti caught in a kind of tug-of-war between being a Marxist progressive, and his nostalgia for the aristocracy of his youth. His films aren't apologias for the aristocracy, but rather, seem highly sceptical of whether or not what came next has been "good enough", or indeed, any different.

Stylistically the film is gorgeous, Visconti immersing us in the rituals of the aristocracy and treating us to lush visuals, ornate costumes and sets. Like most of Visconti's later films, however, "The Leopard's" narrative is too bound to the format and style of the Victorian novel. Likewise, Visconti's aesthetic is too reliant on the conventions of stage plays, which is no surprise, as the director cut his teeth directing Italian operas and theatre productions.

8/10 – "The Leopard" can't be fully digested in a single viewing. Its rather distant style masks numerous subtleties and its power-plays can initially be very confusing, especially to those unfamiliar with this period of history. The film was a huge influence on the works of Martin Scorsese and Francis Ford Coppola. Multiple viewings required.
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