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- A Tribute to Luchino Visconti
Year:  2004

Description:
  As part of our tribute to master Luchino Visconti, we are showing: "The Life & Times of Count Luchino Visconti"

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Luchino Visconti was born on November 2 nd 1906 in Milan. Of patrician and rich family (child of Giuseppe Visconti, duke of Modrone and of Carla Erba, the industrialist''s daughter), he had an infancy and an uneasy childhood: many times he escaped from his house and from the college, and he had a mystical crisis too. In that time his big passion was music and he followed regular courses of cello. Later he was dealt with horses and he formed a superb racing stable. At the age of thirty years old, dissatisfied of the life he conducted, he has moved to Paris and here he came in contact with the cinema world and particularly with Jean Renoir, known through the common friend Coco Chanel.

In 1936 he was Renoir’s assistant Une partie de campagne (he personally drew the customs) and he deepened his cinema culture seeing several French and Russians films and discussing daily with Renoir and his assistants. After a brief stay in Hollywood, he returned in Italy and in 1939 he was again Renoir’assistant for the Tosca, that the French director began only and that has to interrupt for the burst of the war, and was finished by Karl Koch. In Rome Visconti entered in relationships with a group of cinema young critics that collaborated to the magazine " Cinema ", at that time directed by Vittorio Mussolini: in particular Giuseppe De Santis, Gianni Puccini and Mario Alicata. With them and with Antonio Pietrangeli he wrote the screen-play of Ossessione, freely drawn from the novel of James Cain The postman always rings twice, that he had read in a typed French translation that Renoir had given him. The text was approved by the fascist censorship, that previously had refused instead one screen-play of his from the story of Giovanni Verga, L’amante di Gramigna. Ossessione, that was filmed in 1942 (ed. 1943), doesn’t marks the debut of Visconti in the direction only, but it constitutes the first meaningful example of a "cinema of the reality" that will be developed and enriched in the immediate postwar period with the Neorealist movement.

Even being evident the formal influences of content and of definite French cinema of the Thirties (Renoir, Carné, Duvivier), the film points out the presence of a personality of exceptional author, and, above all, he discover a fresh Italy, in the landscape and in the characters, that fascism had disguised for a long time. Wanted by the fascists after September 8 th 1943 and incarcerated, Viscont takes back his activity of director after the liberation and he collaborates to the realization of the documentary Giorni di gloria (1945). Therefore, in Rome, he gives life to a theater company and he dedicates for some years to the theatrical direction only. In 1948 comes back to the cinema realizing La terra trema (ed. 1950), that had to constitute the first episode of a trilogy on Sicily. The film, inspired to Malavoglia of Giovanni Verga, faces in new and brave terms the problems of the fishermen of the island, and it constitutes, for representative vigor and thematic deepening, a clean overcoming of the Neorealist cinema.

In 1951, with Bellissima, on Cesare Zavattini’s subject, it seems that he feels attracted by the Neorealist forms that don’t belong him, but, despite the film’s limits, he succeeds in outlining a strong portrait of plebeian magisterially played by Anna Magnani. Three years later he realizes his first films in colour, Senso, of Risorgimento environment, in which besides the vigor of the narration based on a vigilant critical sense of the historical facts it glimpses a formal gratification and a decadent and Baroque taste, that will notably influence his future production.

White nights (1957), drawn from Fédor Dostoevskij, is in fact a film very far from the realism of his first worksand it has in itself formal elements of content that will broadly reappear in his last films. With Rocco and his brothers (1960) the social themes returns in foreground and the story of this family of Lucania transplanted in Milan is quite the continuation of the family Valastro’s story of The earth trembles; but the melodramatic taste of the show prevails on the human and social deepening of the environment and of the characters, and the film denounces the first symptoms of an artistic crisis that will find its ample confirmation in Boccaccio ''70 (1961), in The leopard (1963), from the homonym novel by Giuseppe Tomasi da Lampedusa, and especially in Of a thousand delights (1965) and in The stranger (1967), colorless version of the homonym novel by Albert Camus. For his cinema activity, that has directly and indirectly influenced the formation of more than a generation of directors and that certainly constitutes one of the richest chapters of the whole history of cinema, Visconi has gotten in 1963 the Prize Feltrinelli of the Accademia nazionale dei Lincei. (From Dizionario del cinema italiano 1945/1969 Author: Gianni Rondolino Publisher Einaudi 1969)

Filmography:

1942 - Ossessione
1945 - Giorni di gloria (in collaboration)
1950 - La Terra trema (produced in 1948)
1951 - Bellissima
1953 - We, the Women (an episode)
1954 - Senso
1957 - White Nights
1960 - Rocco and His Brothers
1961 - Boccaccio ''70 (episode Il lavoro)
1963 - The Leopard
1965 - Of a Thousand Delights
1967 - The Witches (episode La strega bruciata viva)
1967 - The Stranger
1969 - The Damned
1971 - Death in Venice
1973 - Ludwig
1974 - Conversation Piece
1976 - The Innocent

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