Based on the 1957 novel by Count Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa and awarded the Palme d’Or at the 1963 Cannes Film Festival, the movie’s being shown as part of a series celebrating the 100th birthday of actor Burt Lancaster. And while this is certainly one of his best performances, the film truly belongs to cinematographer Giuseppe Rotunno, production designer Mario Garbuglia and of course, director Luchino Visconti. In “My Voyage to Italy,” Martin Scorsese’s 1999 documentary on Italian cinema, he sums up the feat Visconti accomplished: “He worked through total artifice as a way to the truth.”
Its lush and gloriously detailed depiction of 19th century Sicily during Italy’s Risorgimento follows the doomed prince of Salina as he, and the independent monarchy he presides over, finally lost their privileged grip as the middle classes rose up to form a unified, democratic state. Watch as the lavish scenography, meticulous costumes, and golden light of an old master’s painting, give way, in the famous ball sequence of the film’s final third, to a rapturously choreographed departure from order, as Lancaster’s bravely wistful nobleman, the Leopard of the title, sees his world whirling inexorably away. For the price of your ticket, you may just lose yourself in the bargain.