The Leopard review

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In Luchino Visconti's epic, suffocating rituals wrestle with the force of historical change during a turbulent time in Italian history.

At its core is the head of an aristocratic Italian family, Prince Salina (Burt Lancaster), who's struggling with the rise of the bourgeoisie. By contrast, his nephew (Alain Delon) is positively courting the upstarts via a relationship with the daughter (Claudia Cardinale) of a rich mayor.

So far, so good: it's a lush family saga, hinged on Nino Rota's sweeping (if faintly overbearing) score and Lancaster's muscular performance. But in its sumptuousness and overly elegant scripting, The Leopard almost suffocates itself. It's too decorous and the dialogue is too heavy to drum up any real emotional or intellectual heft. Meanwhile, its heady opulence, particularly in the lavish but over-stretched closing ball scene, seems all too enamoured of the aristocracy it sets out to expose as anachronistic.

Still, it's not nearly as flabby as the director's later Death In Venice, and remains a key piece of cinema history for all that.

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