Love and scandal are the best sweeteners of tea. —Henry Fielding

22 March 2006

Visconti

I didn't like The Leopard. God forgive me. I watched it last night and I know, I know, I know, I was supposed to love it, but I... well, I just didn't love it. In fact, I disliked it more than I liked it. I gave it two stars on freaking Netflix.

It's pretty. No, it's absolutely stunningly gorgeous. Seriously. Visconti's color is beautiful (maybe even spectacular) and the Criterion Collection DVD makes everything just sparkle and look fabulous. The costume designer (the awesome Piero Tosi) even got an Academy Award nomination for the film. The costumes are ravishing and he probably should even have won (scratch that: Cleopatra won that year and deservedly so).

For those of you who don't know about The Leopard, it's by Luchino Visconti and it's often touted as one of the finest films ever made, la la la. I read reviews on the internet that wax poetic about the film like you wouldn't believe. But the original Italian version is a dubbed Italian version because the lead actor in the film is American film star Burt Lancaster (clearly speaking English, though Italian was coming out of my speakers) and the second-billed male is French hearthrob Alain Delon (also speaking Italian out of my speakers). Visconti was forced by his financiers to cast a big American star and so enter Lancaster. The thing is, the Burt Lancaster issue didn't bug me. In actual fact, I don't usually like him, but The Leopard is probably the best performance I've seen him give and I've seen him in a boatload of movies. (He's even in my favorite film noir: The Killers. Have you rented it yet?) So if that's not the problem, why was I so BORED?

I start doubt myself? Am I not a true film-lover? And then I realize that, no, I (like everyone else) love Aguirre: the Wrath of God and The Thin Red Line and Pather Panchali and other much-touted "best films ever." It's this film with which I find fault.

But I'm wondering if I just don't like Luchino Visconti. Maybe it's his penchant for allegories. I've only seen one of his other films: 1972's Death in Venice. And though I really liked Death in Venice, I wasn't particularly enamored with Visconti's ability to tell a story. I think the subject matter in Death is fascinating, and I loved all of that Gustav Mahler music, and there is that brilliant Dirk Bogarde performance anchoring the thing. But I guess I'm wondering if without those things, Visconti just isn't much.
Obviously, I need to try this theory, so I'll rent The Damned soon. Or should I rent something else? Suggestions welcome.
(And feel free to fight with me about The Leopard if you've seen it and loved it and all of that jazz. I'm game.)