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  Il gattopardo

rating: (out of 4 stars)

Italy, France; 1963; aka The Leopard
Directed by Luchino Visconti; produced by Goffredo Lombardo; screenplay by Suso Cecchi d'Amico, Pasquale Festa Campanile, Enrico Medioli, Massimo Franciosa, Luchino Visconti
Starring Burt Lancaster, Claudia Cardinale, Alain Delon, Paolo Stoppa, Rina Morelli, Romolo Valli, Mario Girotti (Terence Hill)

It took me around 40 minutes getting used to Luchino Visconti's pacing, but from that moment I was absorbed by the story, based on a novel by aristocrat Giuseppe Tomasi Di Lampedusa. It follows the Prince of Salina, Don Fabrizio, during the Italian unification, and observes the struggle for him and his family to maintain their way of life. With American Burt Lancaster in the leading role, 'Il gattopardo' is Italian Visconti's greatest achievement.

The focus lies not just on Don Fabrizio (Lancaster), but also on his nephew Tancredi (Alain Delon), who joins Garibaldi's army and fights along his side for Italy. To secure at least part of the life Fabrizio is accustomed to, he allows Tancredi to marry the beautiful Anjelica (Claudia Cardinale),  daughter of Don Calogero (Paolo Stoppa), who is from a much lower standard than the good Prince. Always close to Fabrizio is a nosy priest named Pirrone (Romolo Valli), trying to keep him o God's right track, while, of course, benefiting a great deal from Fabriozio's wealth.

Some will argue Visconti's film it too slow and as a result grows boring, but besides missing the great visuals, they also miss the director's point. His film represents the life of the people he shows, and admittedly, their lives seem slow. Not boring though. The final fourty minutes in this film are devoted to a party where Tancredi presents his Anjelica to society, and if these things belong to your routine, well, I would have a terrific time. In magnificent colors, great costumes and sets, Visconti turns his film almost into a musical for the elite.

'Il gattopardo' is an experience, the kind of film they do not make anymore. Scenes where a camera just watches for a couple of minutes at a character, living his daily life, don't exist anymore. The real drama is in the bigger picture, and images of the war are seen in the film, but the focus stays on Fabrizio and his much smaller drama. It is a fascinating film about how a fascinating way of life slowly came to an end. I guess only Visconti, son of a Duke, was the right man to make it.

  Review by Reinier Verhoef