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.
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)
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)
1972, Luchino Visconti, Italy, 235 min.
"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)