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  Directed by
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  Specs
  • Widescreen 2.20:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
  • Dual Layer ( )
  Languages
  • Italian: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • Italian: Dolby Digital Stereo
  • Commentary - English: Dolby Digital Stereo
  Subtitles
    English
  Extras
  • Theatrical trailer
  • Audio commentary
  • Photo gallery
  • Documentaries

The Leopard - Special Edition

/AV Channel . R4 . COLOR . 181 mins . PG . PAL

  Feature
Contract

Luchino Visconti was himself an aristocrat. He grew up in privilege, as part of a family of immense wealth.

But he recast himself into an ardent socialist; a believer in the equality of all men. And this belief inspired all his work, especially his strong early neo-realist Italian cinema.

The Leopard is however quite a dispassionate movie. There's no explicit condemnation here of aristocracy and inherited wealth -- that's implicit as we look at the sumptuous settings and lifestyle of these Sicilian aristocrats in the Italy of the 1860s, as the new Italy, led by Garibaldi, began to shift power from these bastions of entrenched privilege.

This three-hour epic is told through the eyes of a Sicilian Prince, Don Fabrizio, played with huge dignity and strength by Burt Lancaster. Visconti had wanted Laurence Olivier in this role, but his producers, with an eye on the US market, fortunately insisted on Burt.

Of course, now we could imagine no-one else as the Don. This is one of Burt Lancaster's finest screen roles, on par with his appearances in The Swimmer and Conversation Piece. His presence is overwhelming -- he provides a central core to the movie which resonates with maturity and depth.

The Don observes the profound changes in his society, but cannot himself change. He is able also to watch the change through the actions of his favourite nephew, Tancredi Falconeri (Alain Delon), who is an active player in the Italian revolution -- a follower of the leader Garibaldi.

We see the change also through the actions of another Don -- a much more lower-class and venal Don, Calogero Sedara (Paolo Stoppa), who is able to climb aboard and profit from the new band-wagon. That obsequious and grasping Don uses his intensely beautiful and earthy daughter Angelica (Claudia Cardinale) to bridge what was earlier an insurmountable gap between the two families - the times they are a'changin.

This film is of epic proportion and sweep. The story is told slowly, because this is a requiem to Don Fabrizio's past. But the sweep and grandeur is compelling and utterly absorbing. There have been few scenes in cinema to compare with the beauty and richness -- and acute character-observation -- of the 45-minute Ballroom scene which provides the climax of the movie. This movie is Visconti's masterpiece.

  Video
Contract

For this Region Four release, Madman has had a PAL transfer prepared from the meticulous frame-by-frame film transfer undertaken in America by the Criterion company. The quality is, as a result, outstanding.

Colours are breathtakingly vivid. Outdoor sequence shine with a revelatory translucency. The indoor sequences, particularly during the famous Ballroom scene, feature precise imagery which seems to reveal even more detail than I observed in the recent restored-print cinema season.

The image is slightly cropped on one side, bringing ratio to 2.20:1 compared to original release ratio of 2.35:1. This stems from the Criterion transfer, and is virtually unnoticeable on screen.

  Audio
Contract

The 5.1 Surround track is a fine restoration job. It really is the original stereo track meticulously restored, with some added Surround warmth. Most sound remains, however, quite firmly centred, and it's a surprise when a wide stereo effect is detected.

The very clear sound brings out to the fullest effect the soundtrack score by Nina Rota. It's one of the finest scores created by this fine composer.

Purists will enjoy the presence too of the original stereo sound, but the 5.1 track was my preferred track.

  Extras
Contract

The hour-long documentary Luchino Visconti is an Italian production which is intrelligent and detailed, and full of meticulously-researched insights and images. It's one of the very best DVD biographies of its kind I've seen.

There is an optional audio commentary by Australian academic Rolando Caputo, who is co-editor of 'Senses of Cinema'. Madman deserves commendation for finding local experts for this type of role. I however found this commentary dry and quite mundane; strictly for obsessive cineastes.

The addition of original theatrical trailers, and a stills gallery of production pics rounds out a handsome package indeed.

American buyers of the three-disc NTSC Criterion Set gained an extra version of The Leopard; a shorter version prepared back in 1963 dubbed into English for the US market, of interest only because it featured Burt Lancaster's own voice in his role. I'm quite content with this longer original-language version, though dedicated film scholars would welcome having both.

  Overall  
Contract

This is a landmark of European cinema; Visconti's greatest movie in a ravishing DVD transfer. Get it.


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  •  DVD NET Gold Review List 
      And I quote...
    "Luchino Visconti's elegiacal requiem for the Italian aristocracy is already a candidate for the finest Region 4 DVD release of the year."
    - Anthony Clarke
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Pioneer DVD 655A
    • TV:
          Loewe Profil Plus 3272 68cm
    • Receiver:
          Denon AVR-3801
    • Speakers:
          Neat Acoustics PETITE
    • Centre Speaker:
          Neat Acoustics PETITE
    • Surrounds:
          Celestian (50W)
    • Subwoofer:
          B&W ASW-500
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