November 3 - January 2
The Gene Siskel Film Center, in partnership with Luce Cinecittà and the Italian Cultural Institute, Chicago, presents "Visconti," a nine-film series devoted to the great Italian director who combined visual splendor with vivid characterizations and a tragic sense of social-historical change.
Visconti (1906-1976) was born into one of the wealthiest and most prestigious aristocratic families in Italy. In Paris in the 1930s, he entered filmmaking as an assistant to Jean Renoir and became a lifelong Marxist - without, however, sacrificing his luxurious aristocratic lifestyle and seigniorial manner. Visconti aided the Resistance during the war and was imprisoned by the Fascist government. His first films, OSSESSIONE (1943) and LA TERRA TREMA (1948), are considered foundational works of the Italian neorealist movement.
Possibly influenced by his simultaneous careers as one of Italy's leading theater and opera directors, Visconti confounded (and, at first, alienated) critics by moving in a markedly different direction: sumptuous, sensual, baroque, literary, melodramatic, operatic. The lavish costume drama SENSO (1954) and the set-bound romance WHITE NIGHTS (1957) marked a turning point in his career, although elements of his later style can be retroactively recognized in his early neorealist work.
ROCCO AND HIS BROTHERS (1960), a hybrid of his early and late styles, was a major international hit. The culmination of his mature style came in THE LEOPARD (1963), initially unsuccessful in the U.S., though immediately lauded in Europe and now widely recognized as Visconti's masterpiece. THE DAMNED (1969) and DEATH IN VENICE (1971) solidified his status as one of the superstars of the auteur-dominated art-cinema movement. LUDWIG (1972) brought his style to an uncompromising extreme that continues to divide critics.
Visconti's sweeping, operatic style and fanatical attention to detail make his films big-screen musts. We encourage you to take advantage of this opportunity to see his grandly stylized films large. THE LEOPARD, SENSO, ROCCO AND HIS BROTHERS, and LUDWIG will be screened when this series continues in December.
— Martin Rubin, Associate Director of Programming
This series was organized by Camilla Cormanni and Paola Ruggiero of Luce Cinecittà and is sponsored by the Italian Cultural Institute, Chicago. Special thanks to Alberta Lai, Italian Cultural Institute, Chicago; Marco Cicala, Luce Cinecittà.
1972, Luchino Visconti, Italy, 235 min.
- Sat, Dec 29th 3:00pm
- Wed, Jan 2nd 6:00pm
"A revelation, an unqualified masterpiece that ranks with the director's greatest work."--Kevin Thomas, Los Angeles Times.
No Visconti film has more sharply divided critics than this staggeringly sumptuous biography of the mad Bavarian king, many of whose tastes (opera, lavish decor, male beauty) reflect Visconti's own. Most of the negative judgments were based on the dubbed and severely truncated version released by MGM; this screening represents an opportunity to see the film in its full-length big-screen glory. Major episodes include Ludwig's patronage of opportunistic Richard Wagner (superbly played by Trevor Howard) and his platonic love affair with Empress Elizabeth of Austria (Schneider). In Italian, German, and French with English subtitles. DCP digital widescreen. Note: There will be a 15-minute intermission. (MR)
Death in Venice
Morte a Venezia
1971, Luchino Visconti, Italy, 130 min. With Dirk Bogarde, Björn Andresen
- Sat, Nov 3rd 7:30pm
- Sun, Nov 4th 3:00pm
- Wed, Nov 7th 6:00pm
Homosexuality became a more central element in the bisexual Visconti's late films, preeminently in this richly atmospheric adaptation of Thomas Mann's celebrated 1912 novella. A German composer (based by Visconti on Gustav Mahler) visiting Venice becomes obsessed with the idealized beauty of an androgynous boy, causing him to linger in the city as a deadly cholera epidemic spreads. Gorgeous location photography, a haunting music score based on Mahler's Third and Fifth symphonies, and Bogarde's superb performance have made DEATH IN VENICE one of Visconti's most popular films. In English. DCP digital widescreen. (MR)
Ticket-holders are invited to a reception on Saturday, November 3, at 6:30 pm, sponsored by the Italian Cultural Institute, Chicago.
La caduta degli dei
1969, Luchino Visconti, Italy, 156 min. With Dirk Bogarde, Ingrid Thulin
- Sun, Nov 11th 2:00pm
- Wed, Nov 14th 6:30pm
"May be the chef d'oeuvre of the great Italian director - a spectacle of such greedy passion, such uncompromising sensation, and such obscene shock that it makes you realize how small and safe and ordinary most movies are." - Vincent Canby, The New York Times
Visconti pulls out the stops with Wagnerian gusto in this lurid saga (originally X-rated in the U.S.) of a Krupp-like German industrial family that throws its support to the Nazis in the 1930s. Their devil's bargain yields spectacularly dire results, as the family descends into depravity and murder, and Germany itself is consumed in a storm of fire and blood - the latter most evident in the stunning recreation of the "Night of the Long Knives" massacre. In English and German with English subtitles. DCP digital (MR)
1943, Luchino Visconti, Italy, 140 min. With Massimo Girotti, Clara Calamai
- Sun, Nov 18th 2:30pm
"The fully achieved work of a matured artist, and in the last analysis it heralds nothing but the oracular career of one of the very greatest of the elect in that still small clutch of film masters." - James McCourt, Film Comment
A taut noir novel becomes an expansive neorealist prototype in Visconti's first feature. An unauthorized adaptation of James M. Cain's "The Postman Always Rings Twice," OSSESSIONE has never been officially distributed in the U.S. Gino (Girotti), a hunky drifter in a sleeveless undershirt, drifts into a rural gas station/café. He locks eyes with the owner's restless wife (Calamai), and it's lust at first sight. But there's that husband in the way, plus an insurance policy to complicate matters further. Visconti simplifies Cain's twisty plotline but embellishes the narrative with flow-of-life details and digressions that have caused the film to be counted as an important forerunner of the neorealist movement. He also adds a homoerotic dimension by giving the male lead the beauty close-ups and by inventing the bromantic character Spagnolo ("The Spaniard"). In Italian with English subtitles. DCP digital. (MR)
La Terra Trema
1948, Luchino Visconti, Italy, 160 min. With Antonio Arcidiacono, Agnese Giammona
- Sun, Nov 25th 2:30pm
"An impressive achievement, a genuinely poetic social document." - Don Druker, Chicago Reader
Along with OPEN CITY and BICYCLE THIEVES, Visconti's second feature is considered one of the canonical classics of the Italian neorealist movement, although, due to longstanding availability problems in the U.S., it is less widely known than the other two. Informed by Visconti's Marxism but tempered by his tragic/operatic sensibility, the film's theme is the hard lot of fishermen and their families in a Sicilian village, at the mercy of the elements and exploitative wholesalers. Like many of the Visconti's films, it focuses on decline and downfall, centering on a family that defies the wholesalers by going independent, only to find how difficult it is to stand alone. Filmed entirely on location with a nonprofessional cast, LA TERRA TREMA is Visconti's purest exercise in neorealism, but it connects to his later, more stylized films with its fluid camerawork (all the more amazing for the difficult conditions under which the film was shot) and densely packed frames teeming with detail and vitality. In Italian and Sicilian dialect with English subtitles. DCP digital. (MR)
Please note: This trailer is unsubtitled. Our screenings of the film will be subtitled in English.
Le notti bianche
1957, Luchino Visconti, Italy, 97 min. With Marcello Mastroianni, Maria Schell, Jean Marais
- Sun, Dec 2nd 5:00pm
- Tue, Dec 4th 6:00pm
"Visually stunning...This is my favorite Visconti film." - Dennis Schwarz, Ozu's World Movie Reviews
WHITE NIGHTS represents Visconti's furthest departure from his neorealist roots. As such, this poetic romance was widely attacked when first released; subsequent commentators have more favorably located it as an important step in the turn toward stylization that characterizes Visconti's late career. The film is based on the 1848 Dostoyevsky short story (also the source of Bresson's FOUR NIGHTS OF A DREAMER) of a lonely man (Mastroianni) who becomes involved with a woman (Schell) awaiting the uncertain return of her beloved (Marais). The location is transposed from St. Petersburg to the Italian coastal city of Livorno, although a more accurate designation might be Viscontiville. Filming entirely on elaborate sets in the Cinecittà studio, the director creates a Gothic fairyland of inky canals, narrow alleys, neon signs, and crumbling ruins, with atmospheric lighting and weather effects mirroring the moods of the characters. The highpoint of the stylization - and of the film itself - is a delirious dance by a group of young hipsters to Bill Haley's "Thirteen Women." In Italian with English subtitles. 35mm archival print. (MR)
Please note: This trailer is unsubtitled. Our screenings of the film will be subtitled in English.
1963, Luchino Visconti, Italy, 185 min.
"Magnificent...a great film of a great book."--Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times
Visconti’s widescreen masterpiece is one of the cinema’s richest visual experiences. Based on the classic novel by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, it tells of an aging but still vigorous Sicilian prince (Lancaster, who modeled his performance on the princely Visconti) whose sympathies for Garibaldi’s revolution conflict with the interests of his own declining class. The climactic grand ball is an overwhelming tour de force of densely orchestrated detail. In Italian with English subtitles. DCP digital widescreen. Note: There will be a 15-minute intermission. (MR)
1954, Luchino Visconti, Italy, 119 min.
"Aptly titled--a lush, melodramatic portrait of seduction and betrayal, decadence and deceit...revealing Luchino Visconti at his most baroque and the Italian cinema at its most spectacular."--Dave Kehr, Chicago Reader
A key film in the director's career and in the history of Italian cinema, SENSO, with its lavish Technicolor style and theme of aristocratic decline, set the stage for THE LEOPARD and other late Visconti works. Fassbinder and Scorsese were both greatly influenced by this operatic tale, set in 1866 Venice, of a beautiful Italian countess's destructive passion for an arrogant officer in the occupying Austrian army. In Italian with English subtitles. New 2K DCP digital restoration. Restored by Studiocanal, Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia-Cineteca Nazionale, and Cineteca di Bologna at L’Immagine Ritrovata. Restoration funding provided by Gucci, The Film Foundation, and Comitato Italia 150. (MR)
Rocco and His Brothers
Rocco e i suoi fratelli
1960, Luchino Visconti, Italy, 180 min.
“It remains one of the greats...This 4K digital restoration is gorgeous.”--Alan Scherstuhl, Village Voice
“Its richness is inexhaustible...Neither the neighborhood intimacy of MEAN STREETS nor the grandeur of the GODFATHER movies is imaginable without Visconti’s example.”--A.O. Scott, The New York Times
In this vivid and violent family saga, the five brothers of the peasant Parondi clan are traced from their beginnings in grinding rural poverty to the flowering of their rivalries and ambitions in working-class Milan. Through the changing fortunes of one family, Visconti charts the societal changes that swept a generation from the fields of their ancestors to the cold concrete of the 20th-century city, and sent moral compasses spinning wildly. In Italian with English subtitles. 4K DCP digital restoration. (BS)