The Leopard

"Extraordinary"

The Leopard Review


1963's The Leopard, directed by the Italian Count Luchino Visconti and based on the best-selling novel by countryman Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, tells the story of an Old World aristocrat - the Sicilian Fabrizio Corbera, Prince of Salina - as he faces the changes forced upon his embattled social class by the Italian Risorgimento of 1860, a revolutionary social movement (and armed conflict) that brought about the end of that country's feudal monarchies and united its states into what now is the country of Italy. The vision of both the novel and the film is epic, and the politics of the thing are intricate enough that even a native Italian likely found it a challenge in 1963, and would likely find it even more so today. The politics are also central to the film, and this undoubtedly contributed to its uneasy stateside reception in '63 and its virtual unavailability on video until now.

My hope is that Criterion's marvelous new three-DVD edition will change that. Unlike many special editions, there's no superfluous material here: The set includes the original, 187-minute Italian version of The Leopard, the U.S. theatrical release (because Burt Lancaster starred, 20th Century Fox had American rights to the film; not knowing what to do with it, they trimmed 16 minutes, dubbed it into English, and distorted - in the interests of "accessibility" - Giuseppe Rotunno's gorgeous widescreen cinematography), enlightening commentary by film historian Peter Cowie, and video essays that provide important historical context for the action alongside new interviews with surviving cast and crew members.

What Criterion has returned to us is a great screen epic with a compelling psychological portrait at its center, a film that is simultaneously sprawling and intimate. As the Prince, Lancaster is the embodiment of aristocracy, gorged on luxury and entitlement yet essentially noble, and he plays at a depth perfectly suited to the form; he goes deep with his performance, but no so deep as to subvert the cinematic spectacle, as a method actor might. Visconti, for his part, conducts The Leopard at an elegant pace appropriate to his hero's sense of decorum. What threatens the Prince's way of life is not just political reform but also the younger generation that gives expression to it; here, Alain Delon - one of the screen's really timeless male beauties - appears as the Prince's charming yet cunning nephew who stands to inherit his elders' power, with a ravishing (and ravishingly dressed) Claudia Cardinale as his guileless fiancée.

In terms of Italian cinematic power, it was really Visconti, and not Fellini (whose 8 1/2 came out that same year), who wore the mantle of royalty in 1963. What that power bought for him and his film is a sumptuousness, in production terms, that illuminates every frame of The Leopard, and that Visconti wields with taste and unerring intelligence. Leslie Halliwell wrote that the film is "painted like an old master," and the truth of that comment is borne out in Visconti's sublime framing and composition, in Rotunno's intuitive yet formal camera work, and in Nino Rota's elegant score.

The Leopard is not for everyone, maybe even less so today than in 1963. Its elegiac pacing requires more patience than many will be willing to give and its conflicts seethe below the surface rather than on the screen. But true lovers of cinema will find in it an awesome example of screen craftsmanship of a sort that has vanished as surely as the way of life it portrays.

Aka Il Gattopardo.



The Leopard

Facts and Figures

Run time: 187 mins

In Theaters: Monday 15th July 1963

Distributed by: Cowboy Pictures

Production compaines: Titanus, S.G.C., Société Nouvelle Pathé Cinéma

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 4.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 100%
Fresh: 7

IMDB: 8.1 / 10

Cast & Crew

Starring: as Don Fabrizio Salina, as Tancredi Falconeri, as Angelica Sedara/Bertiana, as Don Calogero Sedara, as Maria Stella Salina, Serge Reggiani as Don Ciccio Tumeo, as Father Pirrone, Ottavia Piccolo as Caterina, as General, Terence Hill as Conte Cavriaghi

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Imperium Movie Review

Imperium Movie Review

First-time filmmaker Daniel Ragussis takes an unusual approach to this thriller. Since it's based on...

The Girl With All the Gifts Movie Review

The Girl With All the Gifts Movie Review

Like a 10-years-later follow-up to 28 Days Later, this small British thriller takes a refreshingly...

The Magnificent Seven Movie Review

The Magnificent Seven Movie Review

Director Antoine Fuqua brings his usual fascination with violence to this remake of the iconic...

Bridget Jones's Baby Movie Review

Bridget Jones's Baby Movie Review

As it's been 12 years since the last Bridget Jones movie, expectations aren't too high...

The Beatles: Eight Days a Week - The Touring Years Movie Review

The Beatles: Eight Days a Week - The Touring Years Movie Review

A-list director Ron Howard worked with the surviving Beatles to assemble this engaging documentary, which...

Blair Witch Movie Review

Blair Witch Movie Review

It's been 17 years since The Blair Witch Project shook up the cinema and created...

Anthropoid Movie Review

Anthropoid Movie Review

Outside the Czech Republic, few people know about Operation Anthropoid, a spy mission in 1943...

Advertisement
Kubo and the Two Strings Movie Review

Kubo and the Two Strings Movie Review

From Laika (The Boxtrolls), this is one of the most beautiful, sophisticated animated films in...

Captain Fantastic Movie Review

Captain Fantastic Movie Review

An offbeat comedy-drama with a timely kick, this charming family road trip takes on some...

Hell or High Water Movie Review

Hell or High Water Movie Review

Sicario screenwriter Taylor Sheridan delivers another fiercely intelligent, engaging story that maintains high suspense while...

The 9th Life of Louis Drax Movie Review

The 9th Life of Louis Drax Movie Review

With heavy overtones of Hitchcockian mystery and intrigue, this stylish thriller is the enjoyably melodramatic...

Kickboxer: Vengeance Movie Review

Kickboxer: Vengeance Movie Review

The 1989 Muay Thai action movie Kickboxer starred a young Jean-Claude Van Damme, who pops...

Julieta Movie Review

Julieta Movie Review

Iconic Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodovar is back with another powerfully complex female-centred drama, along the...

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping Movie Review

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping Movie Review

An astute satire of the pop music business, this raucous mock-documentary is consistently hilarious from...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.