Monday, April 27, 2015

Blind Spot: The Leopard

A 3 hour costume drama set in Italy? Nah. At least that is what I thought three years ago. The Leopard never really commanded my attention until I say a clip of it on the documentary Z Channel: A Magnificent Obsession. I was already a big fan of Age of Innocence and after hearing Scorsese adored this film and how its dance sequences influenced his picture, I considered it a must see. Please note that this is the uncut 3 hour version.

Luchino Visconti's The Leopard is based on Guiseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa's novel of the same name. European actors Alain Delon and Claudia Cardinale would make their appearances in later classics or were already in classics but seeing them appear together here made me happy. Burt Lancaster plays an aristocratic Prince. One whose ageing presence is felt as he watches the social class he once knew become more and more obsolete. It's a passing the torch of sorts to a new generation.

Historically, this film takes plays in the 1860s during Italy's Risorgimento. A political and social movement that consolidated several states in the Italian peninsula into the Kingdom of Italy. As this was going on, the aristocracy at the time saw a rise of the middle classes to form a democratic nation.

We see the various uprisings in expertly staged scenes in the beginning. But the heart of the film lay in its lavish interiors of opulent Italian palaces. All culminating in a beautiful 5 minute dance sequence. Visconti's camera is transportive in its attempt to recreate a crucial time in Italian history.

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