The Leopard (Review)

(5 out of 10)
Dir. Luchino Visconti
Starring: Burt Lancaster, Claudia Cardinale, Alain Delon
Approximately 3 hrs. long (depending on which version)

Most historical fiction utilizes history as a backdrop for a fictional story, but The Leopard uses a fictionalized story and characters to tell history, specifically the revolutionary period of 1860s Italy, and the fading of the monarch into a new social order. If you really like Italian history (Sicilian to be more precise) and sociology, I would highly recommend the film.

(small spoilers)

Here’s the basic plot: an aging prince deals with the political transition from monarchy to democracy (I believe the history of that period is a little more complex than that.), and the way this redraws the basis for social classes.

If you like beautiful costumes and settings, then this might be a film for you. This film was made in the early 60s, yet it is one of the most impressive period films that I have ever seen, especially in terms of costumes, set-design, etc. The color of the film is also very vibrant and beautiful. I read one comment that this is one of the most beautiful looking films. I don’t know if it’s the most beautiful looking film, but the visuals are definitely one of the strong points. If these things don’t appeal to you, I would not recommend the film.

Some people have described this as an Italian Gone With the Wind, and there are similarities: the costumes and settings, some battle scenes, the epic nature of the film. One of the biggest differences is that GWTW emphasizes character and story, while The Leopard seems to focus on history and themes like the changes in social class.

My score reflects more of my personal enjoyment of the film versus my objective judgment of the film. The story, characters and subject matter really didn’t interest me much. However, I would probably give the film a higher score in terms of filmmaking. Visconti skillfully uses the medium to tell the story.

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