See This: The Leopard

Claudia Cardinale has word in Burt Lancaster's shell-like in The Leopard



Visconti’s masterpiece is one of the best examples of the period epic ever made, a film that makes Merchant/Ivory look like kids messing about with the dressing-up box. It tells of the arrival of democracy in Italy and the decline of the fine old aristocratic way of life, as seen through the eyes of the enigmatic head of an ancient Sicilian family. The shock of this Italian-language movie is the person playing that central role, a mutton-chopped Burt Lancaster, the actor who started life as a circus acrobat. Why was a man more associated with horses and the high wire, a man so often smeared in diesel, playing an aristocrat and standing on a set with Claudia Cardinale, Alain Delon and Paolo Stoppa? The answer is a grubby one – 20th Century Fox would only bankroll the film if an American star were in it. And, having paid for it, they also felt free to redub and re-edit it, ruining it in the process. Here, back in Italian and at almost full length, its brilliance is restored. And no one in it is better than Lancaster, the Leopard himself – lithe, powerful, elegant as he contemplates the possibility/necessity of changing his spots. “My best work” is how he described it. It’s Visconti’s too.

© Steve Morrissey 2007


The Leopard – at Amazon



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The Leopard (1963) Drama, History | 186min | 5 December 1963 (UK) 8.0
Director: Luchino ViscontiWriter: Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, Suso Cecchi D'AmicoStars: Burt Lancaster, Alain Delon, Claudia CardinaleSummary: In the 1860s, a dying aristocracy struggles to maintain itself against a harsh Sicilian landscape. The film traces with a slow and deliberate rhythm the waning of the noble home of Fabrizio Corbero, Prince of Salina (the Leopard) and the corresponding rise to eminence of the enormously wealthy ex-peasant Don Calogero Sedara. The prince himself refuses to take active steps to halt the decline of his personal fortunes or to help build a new Sicily but his nephew Tancredi, Prince of Falconeri swims with the tide and assures his own position by marrying Don Calogero's beautiful daughter Angelica. The climatic scene is the sumptuous forty-minute ball, where Tancredi introduces Angelica to society. Written by alfiehitchie


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