The Leopard

Burt Lancaster as the Prince

The movie-as-oil-painting prize goes to The Leopard, Luchino Visconti’s majestic, magnificent, magical magnum opus from 1963, a contender in all the serious forums for best looking film ever made but also a triumph as an examination of a society, a politics and a psychology in flux. It’s an adaptation of Giuseppe di Lampedusa’s only novel – a best-seller to this day – and follows it closely. There is no real plot, in other words, more a series of tableaux from the life of a mid-19th-century Sicilian prince as he and his family are buffeted by change, brought about first of all by Garibaldi’s revolutionary Red Shirts, busy unifying Italy (re-unifying, if we’re counting … Read more

The Leopard

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    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 … Read more