Luchino Visconti


(Copyright © 1999 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )

6.5 Ossessione (1943)
7.0 La Terra Trema (1948)
7.2 Bellissima (1951)
7.0 Senso (1954)
6.5 Le Notti Bianche (1957)
7.1 Rocco e i suoi Fratelli/ Rocco and his Brothers (1960)
6.4 Il Gattopardo (1963)
6.5 Vaghe Stelle dell'Orsa (1965)
6.0 Straniero (1967)
7.4 La Caduta degli Dei/ The Damned (1969)
6.4 Morte a Venezia (1971)
6.8 Ludwig (1973)
5.5 Gruppo di Famiglia in un Interno (1974)
5.5 L'Innocente (1976)
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If English is your first language and you could translate my old Italian text, please contact me. Luchino Visconti (Italy, 1906) nacque da una delle famiglie della piu` antica aristocrazia italiana. Durante una permanenza parigina entro` in contatto con Renoir, che lo invito` a collaborare a Une Partie de Campagne (1936), e con gli ambienti del "Fronte popolare". Dopo un soggiorno a Hollywood, torno` in Italia ed inizio` concretamente la doppia attivita`, teatrale con una serie di bozzetti, e cinematografica, con un paio di articoli pubblicati da un regista d'avanguardia.

L'esordio registico, Ossessione (1943), scavo` un polemico abisso con l'imperante cinema di regime e dei telefoni bianchi. Fondendo il rinnovato stile realista francese e il mondo violento della narrativa contemporanea americana (nel caso specifico "The Postman Always Rings Twice" di James Cain), Visconti forni` un quadro verista del suo paese. La storia dell'adulterio omicida commesso dalla moglie di un locandiere con un vagabondo e` il pretesto per rovistare il formicaio di popolani buoni e cattivi della Padana; con un occhio al Verga dei "Malavoglia" e uno al Flaubert di "Madame Bovary", Visconti tradi` premeditatamente il soggetto americano e a piu` livelli: nel decorativismo ambientale, nella tensione teutonica della tragedia, nell'ideologia marxista peraltro macchiata di un'istintiva reppellenza per la miseria e l'ignoranza. Visconti, che aveva gia` avuto noie con la censura fascista, venne arrestato e torturato per la sua attivita` resistenziale. Al termine dell'occupazione riprende l'attivita` teatrale.
Visconti's adaptation of James Cain's "The Postman Always Rings Twice" is a film noir that set the stage for neorealism.

Truckers stop in a town and find a man who has been sleeping in the back. The owner of the truck is also the owner of the restaurant. The tramp, a young attractive man, gets off the truck and walks into the restaurant where he immediately flirts with the younger wife Giovanna of the owner Giuseppe. The tramp orders food and compliments Giovanna. When Giuseppe finds the tramp eating at the kitchen table, Giuseppe kicks him out, but the tramp, Gino, has no money to pay for the food. Gino, penniless, claims to be a mechanic and offers to fix Giuseppe's truck. Gino sends Giuseppe to buy a part for the truck. Gino walks into the house, locks the front door and approaches the woman. The film shifts to Giuseppe, who is biking towards town with a friend and gets excited at the news that someone has fished a big fish. Back to Gino, we see that he and Giovanna just made love in the bedroom. Gino confesses that he is a vagabond, Giovanna confesses that she married the older and rich Giuseppe when she was desperate for money. She is now disgusted by the fat and old Giuseppe and tired of her life as a housewife. Gino invites her to leave with him but she hesitates, afraid to be reduced to poverty again. When Giuseppe returns with the part for the truck, Gino quickly fixes the truck. Giuseppe likes him and hires him as a helper. Giovanna gets increasingly moody, also affected by the heat and the rain. One evening Gino invites her again to flee with him. Giuseppe brings news of a murder and shoots cats with his gun. The following morning Gino and Giovanna walk the long road to the train station. Along the way Gino is calm and relaxed, but Giovanna grows anxious and decides to go back home. Gino, upset, leaves without her. Gino boards a train but has no money to buy a ticket. A stranger pays Gino's ticket and introduces himself as a nomadic entertainer nicknamed "Lo Spagnolo" They get off the train at a port city. Lo Spagnolo pays for a hotel room. Gino confesses that he is obsessed with Giovanna. The following morning Gino considers taking a ship at the port but then returns to town and hooks up with Spagnolo again. Gino finds a humble job carrying advertisement signs around town, while Spagnolo sells his tricks to the gullible passers-by. He runs into Giuseppe and Giovanna. Giuseppe, who knows nothing of Gino's and Giovanna's affair, invites Gino to hang out with them at a cafe' where Giuseppe wants to compete in a context for aspiring opera singers. Alone with Gino, Giovanna laughs at Gino's pathetic job. Gino nonetheless asks her again to flee with him. She is not attracted to his penniless life and refuses. Then Gino decides to return to work for Giuseppe. Giuseppe is excited when the audience claps enthusiastically at his performance. Giuseppe celebrates with friends and gets drunk. Later the trio walks back towards the truck and Giuseppe starts talking about the son he wants from Giovanna. Giovanna hints at Gino that this is a golden chance to kill Giuseppe. The drunk Giuseppe starts driving as it gets dark. Giovanna convinces him to stop and let Gino drive. The film then shifts to the following morning when the police investigates the "traffic accident" that killed Giuseppe. Gino's story doesn't make sense, especially since Giovanna is found with her hat and her purse and no scars, but the police accept their version of the facts and declare it an accident, but the police chief refuses to shake her hand. Back home Giovanna is excited about running the restaurant as the owner but Gino feels remorse and is haunted by the restaurant. Gino wants to leave, Giovanna wants to stay. Day after day they grow apart, and Gino gets bored and starts drinking. The priest advises Giovanna to get rid of Gino because people gossip, but Giovanna has found stability and security. Giovanna organizes a party at the restaurant and advertises it. Spagnolo, the only man to know of Gino's love for Giovanna, shows up and invites Gino to leave with him, implying that he guessed what truly happened to Giovanna's husband. Spagnolo hurts Gino's feelings when he also implies that Gino has fallen under the spell of Giovanna, and Gino punches Gino in front of everybody. A stranger seems interested in the episode. He reports the incident to the police chief and we realize that he is an undercover cop. Walking around town, Gino runs into a pretty girl sitting on a bench and starts flirting with her. She is a dancer and invites him to see her rehearsal. When Anita leaves, a stranger informs Gino that Anita is also a prostitute and tells him where she lives. Giovanna, meanwhile, just found out that her husband had a life insurance and she is to be paid quite a bit of money. She is excited but Gino is disgusted at the idea of getting rich through his murder. Gino now suspects that Giovanna always knew of the life insurance and used him to get it. Gino walks away furious and heads for Anita's room. Anita is not there and Gino browses through her things. When she finds him there, she begins to undress, but he is sad. They make love. Then they decided to go out and get some food. Giovanna has been sitting at a cafe nearby and sees them together. Giovanna starts yelling at Gino in front of Anita who, scared, runs away. Giovanna begs him to return to her. He refuses. She threatens to tell the police that he murdered Giuseppe. Gino slaps her in front of dozens of passers-by. Then Gino returns to Anita's room. Gino kisses her. Meanwhile the police has found two witnesses who swear that they saw Giovanna and Gino climb out of the ravine together while the truck was rolling down. The undercover cop looks for Gino and, learning that he is in Anita's room, waits at the cafe'. Gino sees him from the window and suspects that Giovanna went to the police to frame him. Gino confesses to Anita that he is wanted by the police and asks for her help. Anita is hurt that Gino is not the redeemer she was dreaming of, but accepts to distract the detective so that Gino can escape through the roof. Gino jumps on the back of a truck and returns to the restaurant to confront Giovanna. Giovanna tells him that she didn't go to the police but instead she's resigned to remain alone without him. She tells him that she is pregnant with his child. She keeps talking about her unconditional love for him but he has already left. (There's a child in the house, eavesdropping on them, and it's not clear who the child is). The following morning Giovanna finds Gino at the beach. He carries her in his arms. He has changed and is ready to marry her, but he still wants them to start a new life elsewhere. Giovanna asks him why he suspected her betrayal and Gino tells her of the undercover cop. This convinces Giovanna to flee. They return to the restaurant, pack up and leave in a car. But Gino makes a mistake while passing a truck and the car rolls down a ravine, killing Giovanna. Gino carries her body up the ravine just as the undercover cop arrives. The cop arrests him.

Visconti torno` al cinema con La Terra Trema (1948), un adattamento dei "I Malavoglia" (1881) di Giovanni Verga, affresco wagneriano-verista che rifondo` su basi epiche liriche e figurative il neorealismo avviato da DeSica con Ladri di Biciclette. Dietro il pretesto documentario e sociale (interpretato da pescatori siciliani, e recitato da un siciliano che intendeva rivendicare le sofferenze del popolo), Visconti eresse una monumentale architettura sinfonica (della durata di tre ore), attento ai valori timbrici e tonali, riuscendo a fondere i modi antitetici del piu` artificiale e aristocratico degli spettacoli (l'opera lirica) con il modo anti-spettacolare e popolaresco del neorealismo. La rovina e l'umiliazione della famiglia che aveva sperato di emanciparsi venne resa con virtuosismi tecnici ben lontani dallo stile spoglio di Paisa e di Ladri di biciclette. La complessa arte totale (musicale, letteraria e cinematografica) di Visconti non convinse il pubblico, e il regista, deluso, preferi` dedicarsi al teatro, dove emerse come uno dei registi piu` lucidi, puntigliosi e lirici, aggiornato ai testi franchi, surrealisti, esistenziali, dell'assurdo, e a quelli, americani.
The film, an epic of poor people who are persecuted by both nature and social injustice, is set in the small fishing village of Sicily where Verga's novel takes place, is entirely spoken in the Sicilian dialect, employs non-professional actors, and is shot in a documentarian style.

A written introduction informs us of the poverty of the village. Before dawn the fishermen are returning from the sea, an ancestral routine. Meanwhile at home, the women prepare the house. The voiceover describes the tough life of the fishermen and criticizes the businessmen who get rich out of their dangerous work. We see the heated negotiations at the fish market. The men return home with barely enough to feed the family. The family already lost the father to the sea. The eldely grandfather runs business in a traditional manner but his oldest grandson, Ntoni, a former soldier who has experienced life in the more progressive cities of Italy, is unhappy. His brother Cola tells granpa that Ntoni thinks differently from them. Ntoni is in love with a girl, Nedda. He is worried that her family wants to marry her to a rich man. Meanwhile Salvatore, the local maresciallo, has nothing to do all day and flirts with Ntoni's sister Lucia. In the evening the fishermen are ready to leave again with their fishnets. Notoni's other sister Mara flirts with Nicola, a construction worker. Returning from another tough night, the young and the old get into an argument: the young feel that the wholesalers are ripping off the old and demand that the young be allowed to carry out the negotiations. When the wholesalers refuse the price that the young demand, Ntoni leads a violent rebellion. The wholesaler call maresciallo Salvatore and his guards arrest Ntoni and the others. Days later, however, the leader of the wholesaler, Raimondo, changes his mind, realizing that his business is hurt. He decides to forgive Ntoni and the other fishermen so they can return to fish. Back home, Ntoni understands that he has been released because the wholesalers need to exploit the fishermen and want to find a way to bypass them. The other fishermen, however, are too afraid to try new ways of business. Ntoni convinces his family to mortgage their house. The family travels by bus to the big city to sign the papers and Ntoni returns with cash. Ntoni has great hopes to start his own business, bypassing the wholesalers, pay the debts and marry Nedda. The first night Ntoni and his family fish a record amount of anchovies. Mara buys the salt and Nicola helps her push the cart home. She admits to Nicola the anxiety of having to pay back the bank loan, but Nicola instead feels that now she won't marry him because he is too poor. Many friends join the family to salt the anchovies in a jovial atmosphere. Motivated by the need to pay the debts, Ntoni's crew is the only one to set out when the sea is bad. As the clouds gets darker and the wind stronger, the women wait anxiously at the beach wearing black dresses. Mara begs a friend, Bandiera, to go and look for Ntoni's boat. Days later Bandiera returns dragging Ntoni's boat: Ntoni's crew risked death, lost fish, nets and oars, and the boat has been badly damaged. The whole town welcomes them back. The wholesalers watch amused and scorn Ntoni, who is ruined. Nedda herself refuses to see Ntoni. Ntoni is reduced to look for work from other fishermen. In vain: nobody wants to hire him. On the other hand the maresciallo is still in love with Lucia. The wholesalers take advantage of Ntoni's desperation and offers a very low price for the remaining anchovies that were salted with hard work from the whole family. Ntoni initially refuses but eventually gives in. Ntoni and Cola are unemployed for one month. Only their little brother Vanni finds some work. One day a stranger shows up and offers Cola a job in the continent. Cola is tempted to leave the town. Now it's Ntoni, the older brother, who sticks to the tradition and tells him that they should remain in their hometown. Ntoni follows Cola when Cola meets other young men and the stranger. Just then the bank sends officers to check their home that will be confiscated if they don't pay their debt, and Ntoni runs home. Cola, unaware, accepts to emigrate with the other young men on the stranger's boat. The news that Cola ran away kills grandfather. Lucia is desperate too and begins an affair with maresciallo Salvatore. Ntoni becomes a drunk who spends the nights with jobless rascals. One night Ntoni and his friends see the maresciallo walk home at midnight and Ntoni guesses that he has been with Lucia. Mara catches Lucia coming back very late at night and guess the same. Lucia is agry at Ntoni, who caused their misery and now has become useless. Soon, the whole town gossips about Lucia. Lorenzo, who works for the wholesaler Raimondo, comes to make peace and offers him a job but Ntoni is still resentful and the two get into a fistfight. The neighbors take Lotenzo's side and accuse Ntoni of being arrogant. The family receives the notice to vacate the house. They collect the few things they own. Mara says goodbye to Nicola: now she feels that she is too poor to marry him, although he is still in love. Some time later a baroness attends the inauguration of ten brand new boats acquired by the wholesalers. The fishermen hail the wholesalers. Ntoni feels that the town, that now despises him, is ungrateful because he did what he rebelled for everybody, not just for himself. Ntoni is moved that Mara wants to sell some of their remaining belongings because the family is starving. He and his two brothers Vanni and Alfio, who are still children, join the line of men who look for work from the wholesalers. Seeing him humbled, the wholesalers Raimondo and Lorenzo laughed loud. Ntoni accepts silently the humiliation. When his turn comes to go to sea, Mara is happy again even if they live in a dilapidated shed.

Bellissima (1951) e` la storia di una madre popolana (la Magnani) che porta la figlioletta a un concorso cinematografico e, montatasi la testa prende sul serio i consigli di un trafficone senza scrupoli che mira soltanto a sedurla. Sperpera cosi` i quattrini faticosamente risparmiati dal marito, senza rendersi conto di essere presa in giro. Capisce la verita` soltanto quando assiste di nascosto alla proiezione del provino di sua figlia: tutti i presenti ridono a crepapelle di quella bambina goffa e ruspante. Il suo istinto materno umiliato insorge allora contro il cinismo e l'ipocrisia di questi borghesi disumani, e quando essi verranno a dirle di aver scelto la sua bambina li gettera` fuori di casa, gridando con quanto fiato ha in gola di non averla messa al mondo perche` gli altri ne ridessero. Il melodramma risente dell'impronta neorealista di Cesare Zavattini (sceneggiatore) e della vibrante polemica "Viscontiana" nei confronti della corruzione dell'ambiente cinematografico.
The film is a melodrama about another "obsession", the obsession of the showbusiness, and it is a portrait of a desperate dreamer, just like the dreamer of "La Terra Trema". The mother wants her daughter to succeed where she failed and is so inebriated that doesn't realize the obvious limitations of her daughter and the obvious intentions of the scoundrel. Ironically the great actress is the mother, not the daughter, because the mother who can fool just about everybody. Unfortunately she can also fool herself. (The film is significantly different from Zavattini's original script: Zavattini's Maddalena was a working-class woman, a cloakroom attendant working at night, married to a working-class man who worked during the day).

The film opens at the opera. A television announcement that a famous director (Biasetti in person) is looking for a little girl causes hundreds of parents to rush chaotically to Cinecitta` with their daughters. While the audition of the girls begins, a mother, Maddalena (Anna Magnani), is desperately looking for her six-year-old girl Maria (whom she calls Ani'). She finds her by a pond and feels even more desperate because Maria messed up her clothes. A young man, Alberto, comforts her, advises her and escorts her to the studio. The girl is clearly less gifted than others and even stutters but she makes it to the shortlist for the screen test precisely because she looks more authentic, as Alberto had suggested. Meanwhile, Maddalena's husband Spartaco, who is hanging out with his friends Franco and Bruno, is worried that mother and child are missing. When Maddalena finally shows up, she's all excited but Spartaco instead is angry. Maddalena tells everybody that Maria has been chosen for the final audition. After frantically taking care of some chores that she has postponed (Maddalena has a side job administering injections at home), Maddalena gets home and finds a retired actress who insists on coaching Maria even though Maddalena keeps repeating that she cannot afford private lessons. Maddalena has regrets that she didn't become an actress herself. However, after meeting the mothers of competing girls Maddalena decides that acting lessons are a must. And after learning that the movie part involves classical dance, Maddalena also sends Maria to dance lessons. Maddalena hides all the expenses to her husband Spartaco. They barely have money to pay their bills. Poor Maria is exhausted and cries when she goes to sleep. In the evening Maria watches a western movie which is projected in a public square. The film shows cows crossing a river. The film then shifts to the mothers rushing to the film studios the following morning with their daughters. Maddalena waits in the crowd of mothers, each of which is thinking of ways to pass in front of the others. She asks Alberto for help and Alberto takes her to a professional haircut. The hairdresser is busy with another customer and Maddalena, as usual, pressures him to take care of Maria. Then Maddalena leaves with Alberto and the hairdresser, stressed by Maria who started screaming, calls a young apprentice to cut her hair, and the result is a disaster. Maddalena begs Alberto to help Maria at the audition. Alberto asks for money and promises that Maria will win the audition. The gullible Maddalena gives him all her savings, which are needed to pay forthcoming bills. We see that Alberto spends the money to buy a motorcycle. Meanwhile, Spartaco has found the acting coach and kicks her out, is furious that Maddalena has come home with her hair destroyed, and just then someone delivers the expensive dancing dress that Maddalena has ordered for Maria. Spartaco loses his temper and almost hits Maddalena while Maria cries and all the neighbors rush in alarmed. Maddalena makes a scene in front of everybody pretending that Spartaco beat her and ruined her. Maddalena is an excellent actress. The neighbors take Maddalena's side and Spartaco leaves the house. The day of the audition Alberto swears to Maddalena that he has used her money to bribe all the people of power. After the audition, Alberto tries to seduce Maddalena. Maddalena reveals that she figured out what Alberto did with her money but she doesn't care as long as Alberto makes Maria win. The following day Maddalena sneaks into the studio and talks to one of the employs, a beautiful young woman who tells her the grim reality of the business and warns her that the illusion has ruined many people. Maddalena, as usual, pressures the employee to let her watch her daughter's audition. As usual, Maddalena's insistence pays off and she's allowed to watch from the projectionist rooms as the crew watches her daughter's performance. It's an awful performance that ends with Maria in tears. The crew, which includes Alberto, laughs and mocks Maria's performance. Maddalena sees everything and is devastated. Maddalena, more furious than humiliated, runs downstairs and confronts director Biasetti breaking into tears. She yells at them for not respecting the sacrifices she has made for the girl, as if they should reward her stubborness regardless of the merits of the girl. They gently escort her out. She walks around till dark with Maria. She sits on a bench crying with Maria. However, somehow Biasetti decides to hire Maria. Alberto takes them to Maddalena's home but they only find Spartaco and explain to him that they are ready to sign the contract. The whole neighborhood is worried because Maddalena has disappeared. Maddalena reappears escorted by the curious neighbors. Now it's the crew that wants Maria. Now it's Spartaco who wants to sign the contract. But Maddalena has changed and tells them she is proud of Maria's beauty and swears that Maria will never enter the showbiz. Alberto and the crew leave, Maddalena cries and Spartaco forgives her. Outside they are showing a film in the public square and we can hear the voices. Little Maria is already asleep.

La forte matrice "ottocentesca" del regista riemerse in Senso (1954), revisione da antiquario e da patrizio, molto impregnata di letteratura, di decorativismo e di Verdi, del Risorgimento italiano, quello dei patrioti nobiluomini e degli ufficialetti austriaci rubacuori; un grandioso affresco morale e cromatico di una civilta` aristocratica in via di estinzione. La regia di Visconti si sublima in quest'opera su misura, che rompe definitivamente con gli schemi del neorealismo: gli attori sono forgiati dalla mano esperta dall'uomo di teatro, la scenografia ha una funzione illustrativo, pragmatica e analitica, decisamente astorica e demitizzante. Elemento pittoresco ed elemento psicologico sono fusi da una regia "totale" e puntigliosa, tesa ad ottenere il meglio da ogni particolare. Stendhal e Dostoevskij, oltre che il pathos greco, innalzano il feuilleton a immane parabola sulla passione, sul tradimento e sulla vilta`.

An operatic melodrama about a woman whose lust for a cynic seducer turns her mad to the point that she betrays everybody else; and eventually she betrays even him.

In 1866 during a performance of Verdi's opera "Il Trovatore" in Venezia's opera house chaos erupts when Italian nationalists drop fliers against Austria (which was then occupying the region of Venezia). Many Austrian troops are sitting in the audience. One of them, Franz, makes a caustic remark about Italians. An Italian aristocrat, Roberto, who has organized the protest, challenges him to a duel. The scene is witnessed by a countess, Livia, who leaves her husband who rushes to protect Roberto, her cousin. The countess' voiceover informs us that her cousin is a leader of the resistance. Her husband, old and boring, whom she clearly despises, quickly apologizes to the Austrian officials. Livia, instead, thinks how she can make sure the duel will not happen: she asks to be introduced to Franz and then implores him to cancel the duel. Franz reassures her that there will be no duel and later she learns why: Roberto is arrested by the Austrians. She begs her husband to use his connections to free Roberto. Her husband belittles the resistance and refuses to help. Roberto is sentenced to exile but doesn't renounce to help the resistance even from abroad. Franz confronts Livia: he has learned that Roberto is her lover. Livia is hostile, but Franz insists on walking her home and she slowly opens up. She denies that Roberto could be her lover but confesses that she admires him and shares his nationalist feelings. They walk around Venezia's old town all night long. A few days later she gives herself to him. He rents a room and they begin an adulterous affair. One day Franz disappears, with no explanation and without paying his bills. She looks for him all over Venezia. Austrian soldiers make fun of her anxiety: he is a known womanizer with many lovers. Prussia declares war on Austria and Livia's husband decides to move out of the city in their countryside villa. Livia begs him to wait 24 hours, but keeps looking for Franz, even if it means that her husband learns of her extramarital affair. Finally a messenger asks her to meet a man in secret, and she thinks that it's Franz. Her husband follows her. They both think they will meet her lover, but instead they find Roberto. He has returned and is ready to resume the fight. Her husband now thinks that she invented the lover to hide Roberto. Roberto thinks she came to support his cause of the Italian nationalists. In reality she is simply devastated that she has lost Franz. Livia's husband, a practical man who has always collaborated with the Austrians, offers Roberto a deal: he expects that Austria will lose and Venezia will be transferred to Italy, and wants to help Roberto in exchange for protection later from the Italians. Roberto entrusts her with money collected among donors for the resistance. One night at the villa Franz slips into Livia's room through a window and she accepts to hide him even if she knows that he's not there for her. He finds excuses to explain why he dumped her and eventually seduces her again. She hides him in the villa. One day he tells her that he has to return to the barracks to fight in the war... unless he finds the money to bribe the army doctor. One day a fire starts in the house where Franz is hiding. Livia is terrified while her husband leads the efforts to put out the fire. Franz shows up in her room and she calms down, but the scare makes her realize how much she is attached to him. He, however, has to return to his batallion or be sentenced to death as a deserter. At the same time one of Roberto's men shows up asking for the money that Roberto gave her, but Livia couldn't care less about the liberation war. This reminds her that she has money. And she remembers that Franz mentioned the possibility of bribing an army doctor. She is easily fooled into giving him Roberto's money, the money needed by the Italian partisans to fight the Austrian occupiers. The maid sees how Livia helps her Austrian lover and betrays her cousin and her homeland. While Livia is only preoccupied with Franz's attempts at being exempted from fighting, Roberto and his men fight alongside the Italian army in the fields nearby. Roberto's men report excited to Livia about the battle but she is only worried about Franz. She refuses to give them the money to buy weapons. The Italians are defeated. Many are killed and wounded. While Roberto's men withdraw defeated, Livia decides to flee and rejoin Franz, despite the fact that Franz, happily exempted from fighting, wrote a letter not to look for him. Indifferent to everything else, she is excited to see him again, but, when she enters the apartment, Franz is annoyed. He is drunk, reproaches her for coming, mocks her gullibility, and candidly reveals that he has a prostitute in the house, paid with her money. Franz even humiliates Livia by making her drink with the whore, and calling her old and ugly. Franz confesses that he makes money by extorting it from women and by gambling. And he cries admitting that he is a deserter. She shrieks and leaves him. She walks in the streets of Venezia which are roamed by drunk Austrian soldiers and finds shelter at the Austrian headquarters. And she delivers Franz's letter in which he mentions that he bribed the army doctor, i.e. that he is a deserter. The general understands that she is taking revenge on a lover who betrayed her and tells her that she is assassinating Franz. She simply replies that he should carry out his duty. She calmly walks out of the headquarters while orders are being given in German to arrest and execute Franz. Hours later, in the middle of the night, Franz is executed by firing squad.

Da Dostoevskij e` tratto Le Notti Bianche (1957), mentre di classicismo naturalista si puo` parlare a proposito di Rocco e i suoi Fratelli (1960), sceneggiato da Enrico Medioli, che celebra con modi d'alta tragedia Greca la vocazione di Visconti all'affresco e al melodramma, al populismo e allo psicologismo. Continuazione e ampliamento di La Terra Trema, il film ambienta questa volta la disgregazione della famiglia nella metropoli industriale. Film d'impatto drammatico sconvolgente, per la superba direzione degli attori, il sostenuto ritmo narrativo e l'ambientazione quotidiano/contemporanea, il film nasce dallo scambio fra diverse culture letterarie: il Dostoevskij dell'"Idiota" (che diventa Rocco l'infinito ingenuo e generoso), gli scrittori meridionalisti Italiani, e il Thomas Mann di Giuseppe e i suoi Fratelli.
The main difference with the previous films is the violence, highlighted by the contrast between Simone the beast and Rocco the angel. Compared with La Terra Trema, this is a portrait of individual evil as opposed to social evil, although at the end the evil is recognized as originating from the progress that is destroying traditional values, implying that it is the modern northern Italian city that is responsible for corrupting the fallen brother while the saint (the "idiot") is the one who remains nostalgic about the values they left behind in the poor traditional south.

A family of southern immigrants arrives in Milano after a long train ride: Rocco (Alain Delon), Simone, Ciro, little Luca, and their mother Rosaria. The older son, Vincenzo, already lives in Milano. They take the tram to his place and stare amazed at the rich northern city. They surprise Vincenzo, who is celebrating his engagement to the beautiful Ginetta (Claudia Cardinale) in Ginetta's house. Initially, Ginetta's family welcomes the visitors but Rosaria is hostile to Ginetta because she thinks that it is too soon for Vincenzo to get married, after his father just died. And then a bitter argument erupts with Ginetta's mother Amelia when Rosaria demands that she and the four brothers be allowed to sleep in the house. Rosaria leaves the house followed by all the sons and even Vincenzo is kicked out of Ginetta's house. Vincenzo doesn't have enough money to support the whole family. A friend advises Vincenzo to rent a house, pay rent only for two months, be evicted and then apply for the homes subsidized by the city. The five brothers and the mother share a big room. The following morning they wake up excited because it is snowing: they have never seen snow before. Vincenzo is no longer admitted in Ginetta's house but still wants to marry her. One day he runs into a scantily dressed girl who has been kicked out by her father. He takes her home and asks his mother to lend her a warm jacket. The brothers stare at the girl's sexy legs. Then Vincenzo asks a cop to escort the girl but the girl flees from a window. Then their mother tells her naive children that the girl is a prostitute. And she's also a thief because she stole the jacket. Vincenzo has his own humble job as a construction worker, while Rocco, Simone and Ciro try their luck at boxing. An agent, Duilio, is impressed by 21-year-old Simone and offers him professional training. Ginetta's brother Alfredo is hostile to Vincenzo and forbids Ginetta to see him, and Rosaria is hostile to Ginetta, but the two lovers keep seeing each other secretly. Simone runs into the prostitute, Nadia, and sleeps with her. Little Luca rides a bicycle around town as a delivery boy. Simone pretends that he is making good money for his boxing, but in reality he is spending it all for Nadia. The shy and meek Rocco, instead, works seriously in a dry cleaning's shop where the girls like him but also mock him. Simone visits Rocco at work to ask for money and also steals a shirt. Later, Rocco visits Simone's coach and hears that Duilio, the agent, is fed up with Simone. The coach tells Rocco that Simone has talent but no discipline. He asks Rocco to keep an eye on Simone. Simone wants to return the shirt that he stole and finds the owner alone. He takes advantage of the woman's emotional weakness and kisses her but only to steal her brooch. Nadia, who now owns a car, is not stupid: she returns the brooch to Rocco, knowing that Simone must have stolen it, and tells Rocco that she doesn't want to have anything to do with Simone anymore. Rocco delivers the message to Simone. Rocco doesn't want to go back to work at the shop and joins the army. Rocco receives a letter from his mother informing him that they finally moved to a new, better apartment, Simone won a boxing fight, Vincenzo got Ginetta pregnant and had to marry her, Ciro, who was studying every night, got his diploma and has been hired by a major company. The family survives on Ciro's salary because Simone's income is erratic. Rocco is sent to another city. By coincidence, Nadia is there too and she runs into him. He has no money but she offers him a coffee. Nadia reveals that she is a prostitute to a clueless Rocco and that she has just been released from prison after 13 months. Rocco confesses that he misses his hometown and finds it difficult to acclimate to the northern cities. Nadia is fascinated by Rocco's simplicity and sincerity. Rocco pities her and falls in love with her. Rocco pays a surprise visit to his mother Rosaria and then runs to congratulate Vincenzo and Ginetta for their first baby, Antonio. Simone's coach is frustrated by Simone and in fact Simone loses a boxing match. The coach wants Rocco to take his place on the ring. Simone also hears gossip that Rocco is dating Nadia, that Nadia cleaned up and is even studying. That night Simone and four friends follow Nadia and Rocco. Simone confronts Rocco accusing him of being a traitor. Rocco rapes Nadia while his friends hold Rocco. Then Rocco challenges Simone and forces him into a fistfight and keeps beating him until Simone collapses. In the middle of the night Rocco rings the doorbell of Vincenzo's apartment and shows up covered in blood. Rocco moves out of his mother's house to avoid confrontations with Simone. When he meets Nadia again, on the roof of the Duomo, Rocco tells her that he understands and justifies Simone. Rocco wants to leave her to avoid hurting his brother, and Nadia, desperate, threatens to kill herself. Later, a drunk Nadia tells Simone how much she hates him, but then, after threatening to spit in his face, she lets Simone kiss her. Rocco, instead, takes Simone's place on the ring, and with more success. Ciro has a fiance, Franca, and still lives with his mother. Ciro finds Nadia at home and tries to console his mother who is heartbroken: Rocco moved out, and Simone lives with a whote. When Ciro reproaches Simone, an arrogant Simone ignores him and keeps Nadia in the house. Ciro vents his frustration with Rocco but Rocco still justifies Simone. Increasingly drunk, Simone is getting into big trouble. He tells his old agent Duilio that he needs money. Duilio tells him that he is finished as a boxer and forces him to have sex with him. In the morning the cops show up at Rosaria's place looking for Simone: he is accused of robbing Duilio. Nadia, who has been living with Simone in Rosaria's house, is laughing in bed and tells Rosaria that Simone is a criminal and a loser, and then she leaves the house, having witnessed the fall of Simone. Vincenzo, Ciro and Rocco visit Duilio, who tells them that Simone owes more than what he stole: it's a huge sum. Rocco promises to repay Duilio with the money from his boxing. Ciro and Vincenzo warn Rocco that they cannot help because they have their own families to support. Rocco accepts to sign a ten-year contract with the coach. Ciro delivers Rocco's money to Simone but tells him to leave the house. Rocco becomes a star of boxing. Simone is a wreck. His old friends mock him. One of them informs him that Nadia is known as "the motorized whore" because she drives her customers to have sex along a canal. Simone runs there and catches Nadia with a customer. Simone begs her to get back together, Nadia tries to run away and calls in vain for help, Simone tells her that he loves her, she tells him that she hates him, Simone stabs her to death. Meanwhile, Simone wins another match. Family, friends and the whole neighborhood get together to celebrate his victory. Only Simone is missing. Rocco confesses that he still wants to return to the hometown and reminds everybody of the importance of family ties. Simone shows up. Rosaria has been waiting for him to join the other brothers. But Rocco realizes that something is wrong. He grabs Simone and takes him to a room. Simone confesses to him that he killed Nadia. Rocco screams devastated, but still caresses Simone and would be willing to help Simone hide the crime, but Ciro, realizing what happened, reports Simone to the police. Simone hides but is finally caught. Little Luca, outside the factory where Ciro works, during a break, blames Ciro for Simone's arrest but Ciro explains to Luca that it is wrong to always forgive like Rocco does. Ciro wipes his tears, hugs his fiance' and goes back to work at the factory. As Luca walks home, he passes by a wall that is plastered with several copies of a newspaer that has Rocco's face on the front page.

Si sono ormai delineate le maggiori direttrici dell'opera viscontiana: il crollo del mondo aristocratico ottocentesco, il disfacimento della famiglia popolare a contatto con la societa` moderna, la letterarieta` spiccata (Dostoevskij, Mann, Verga e D'Annunzio rispettivamente per psicologia individuale, famiglia, populismo meridionalista e decadentismo artistico), la cultura borghese e il teatro, del quale e` ormai un esponente di primo piano e a cui si dedica con passione durante le lunghe prove fra un film e l'altro.

Il Gattopardo (1963), piu` che mai fuori da ogni collocazione neorealista, segna anzi l'adesione a un cinema altamente spettacolare, fondato sul paradigma nel drammatico, sulla ricerca figurativa e sulla forte tipizzazione degli attori. Ancora una volta al centro del film ci sono l'ambiente artistico ottocentesco prossimo all'estinzione, il meridione contadino e la musica romantica (un valzer inedito di Verdi accompagna la lunga scena del ballo). Fedele adattamento del romanzo di Tomasi, tenta invano di ripetere l'agonia della contessa di Senso nella fine del vecchio principe. L'analisi storica marxista della crisi del Risorgimento, lascia il tempo che trova. Ma propone per la prima volta una cupa riflessione sulla morte, quello che sara` un tratto caratteristico di molta produzione successiva, a partire da Vaghe Stelle dell'Orsa/ Sandra (1965), film intimista (che rinuncia finalmente ad ambigue indagini storiografiche) sul passato torbido di una famiglia. Questa "Elettra" che rovista nelle colpe della madre adultera e omicida appartiene alla aristocrazia decadente e forse cerca una verita` proprio per nascondere la propria decadenza (l'incesto).
The film is a suspenseful psychological thriller which is half a retelling of the ancient Electra myth (the daughter who seeks revenge for the adulterous mother and the stepfather who killed her father) set among the decadent post-holocaust aristocracy: this Electra is no angel. Both mother and daughter are to some extent insane. The film remains ambiguous about who is the real victim: the daughter (who accuses her stepfather but is herself a "sinner") or the stepfather (who protests his innocence).

Sandra (Claudia Cardinale) and her husband Andrew drive to her old hometown. When she enters her old home, which is a large mansion, Sandra is moved to tears. The housekeeper Fosca informs them that Sandra's brother Gianni has come often to use the house, in particular on Easter day. Sandra initially doesn't believe her because Gianni told her that he was sick in London and couldn't attend her wedding. The housekeeper also informs her that her mother is taken care at the hospital, a mental institution. At night, while a strong wind is blowing through the isolated villa, Andrew thinks he sees somebody, but Sandra replies that there are no ghosts. The camera shows the tombstone commemorating her father and we learn that he was killed by the Nazis. Minutes later Gianni shows up and she hugs him like a long-lost lover. Andrew meets Gianni, whom he has never met before. Gianni is an aspiring writer and confesses that he has been selling objects of the villa (paintings and silverware) to finance himself. Gianni reveals that he is writing a Proust-ian memoir titled "Vaghe Stelle dell'Orsa" (like Leopardi's famous poem). Sandra gets angry when Gianni starts undressing casually in front of her. Gianni and Sandra think the villa is a sinister place. Gianni wants to rent it out. We learn that the garden is being donated to the city so it will become a public park. Sandra tells Gianni that their father's brother and other relatives are not coming to the inauguration. We understand that they have a stepfather, whom they call only with his last name Gilardini. When Sandra goes to sleep, Gianni takes Andrew for a tour of the town and explains its Etruscan and medieval past. Gianni takes Andrew to the local bar and even introduces Andrew to Sandra's first love, Pietro, the son of the foreman. At the villa Sandra has locked herself in a bedroom. When Gianni and Andrew return, one of the two tries to enter her bedroom and we don't see who, but the camera shows us both Sandra and Gianni are unable to sleep. When Gianni and Sandra meet at city hall to sign the donation, the ghosts of their past come out: Sandra demands that the city finds out the truth about the tragic end of her Jewish father and her stepfather Antonio Gilardini accuses her of defaming him. Later at the villa, Sandra tells Andrew that she and Gianni always suspected that Alberto and her mother became lovers and colluded to cause her father's death. Andrew is worried about her and would like to take her away as soon as possible: he feels that she is obsessed with her father's death and is imagining evidence that doesn't exist. Gianni gives Sandra his manuscript. We see a flashback of Sandra's mother shouting that her children are two monsters. Alberto meets with Andrew and vents his frustration. He claims that he is the one who saved the estate and took care of Sandra's mother. Alberto insinuates that there are sinister secrets in the family but doesn't tell Andrew which ones. Sandra reads Gianni's manuscript and forbids him to publish it: it details their incestuous relationship (presumably the sinister secret that Alberto mentioned). Andrew invites Alberto to dinner in order for the family to finally clarify all the secrets. The dinner is also attended by the mother's doctor, who reveals that Sandra's mother wants to attend the opening ceremony of the garden, implying that she is not as insane as Sandra thinks. During the dinner Alberto accuses Sandra of having concocted a false story against him in order to protect her own incestuous scandal. Andrew punches repeatedly Gianni to make him confess. Sandra stops him but Andrew has lost his faith in her and leaves the villa. Gianni begs Sandra to remain with her at the villa, but Sandra is now horrified by his lust. He is desperate and threatens suicide, but he has done it before. We see that this time, alone in his room, after destroying his book, he is really agonizing. We hear Sandra's thoughts that she has decide to leave Gianni and join Andrew. Alberto and Sandra attend the ceremony in the garden. We learn that Sandra's father was a Jewish scientist. Meanwhile, the housekeeper Fosca and the doctor find Gianni dead. (It is never clearly stated in the film, but common understanding is that Sandra's suspicion is that her adulterous mother and her lover Antonio reported her Jewish father to the Nazis in order to get rid of him).

Dopo lo Straniero (1967), adattamento del romanzo di Camus, che si adatta al clima opprimente di mistero del film precedente e alla sua sibillina vena esistenzialista, Visconti approda ai " Buddenbook" di Mann (inevitabile: sono la quintessenza del suo decadentismo familiare) con La Caduta degli Dei/ The Damned (1969) , per altri versi succube di esasperate tonalita` espressioniste: corruzione, omosessualita`, incesti, orge, eccidi, suicidi corredano l'ascesa al potere del nazismo, dall'incendio del Reichstag alla notte dei lunghi coltelli; anche Nibelunghi e Macbeth partecipano a questa sagra dell'orrore e dall'ambizione, della barbarie e della follia. Compatto e rigoroso, il film trascende l'affresco teutonico e la diegesi storica per una narrazione polifonica che, seguendo diversi destini paralleli, propone una visione apocalittica (non piu` solo decadente) della grassa borghesia.

La Caduta degli Dei/ The Damned (1969) is a sprawling and extravagant 154-minute epic, the first and most powerful part of Visconti's "German trilogy". Revelling in perversion and violence, the film draws a parallel between the fall of Germany's democracy and the decadence of its aristocracy. The two stories are united by the man who at the beginning is just a marginal character in a polyphonic narrative and slowly emerges as the protagonist: a psychotic, hateful and amoral androgynous paedophile and rapist. The plot doesn't always make sense, but it is consistently a cynical display of murderers, traitors, homosexuals, prostitutes and sex maniacs. The story is a progressive, accelerating and apocalyptic descent into depravity and evil, culminating with an Oedipal act that may symbolize the collusion between the German aristocracy with its child, Nazism, orphan of morality.

The film is set in 1933 Germany during Hitler's rise to power.. Joachim is an aging steel magnate, head of important steelworks. It is his birthday and the family has gathered to celebrate it with performances by his grandchildren on a makeshift stage. Joachim had three sons. Their families are introduced one by one, starting with the vulgar and fat Konstantin, who runs a unit of the army not aligned with the Nazi party, followed by Herbert and his wife Elizabeth, who have two little daughters. Joachim's oldest son died in World War I and is survived by his wife Sophie and her son Martin, the oldest of the grandchildren. Also invited is Friedrich, the businessman who actually manages the steelworks. He is driving in a car with his Nazi cousin and best friend Aschenbach. Friedrich is desperate because he is not from an aristocratic family like Joachim's family and is therefore not allowed to marry the widowed Sophie, with whom he has a secret relationship. Aschenbach reassures him that events are going to play in his favor: the Nazis like him better than his rivals to succeed Joachim, namely Konstantin and Herbert. Herbert, the current vicepresident, is an outspoken critic of Nazism. Konstantin heads a military unit that competes with the Nazis. The performances begin with Konstantin's son Gunther who plays a cello sonata. Then Herbert's older daughter perform. Then Sophie's son Martin (played by Viscontiís Austrian lover Helmut Berger) performs dressed like a woman imitating Marlene Dietrichís famous scene in "The Blue Angel". His performance is interrupted by the news that the parliament is on fire. The family gathers for a formal dinner. Herbert is outraged by the actions of the Nazist, but Joachim has decided to do business with Hitler because his priority is business. Joachim demands Herbert's resignations and appoints Konstantin as his successor. Later Friedrich tells Sophie that his Nazi friend has warned him of an opportunity to seize control of the company. The scheming Sophie encourages him to cynically take the opportunity. A drunk Konstantin orders his cello-playing son Gunther to drop out of college and start working at the factory, so he can follow in his father's footsteps. Martin and Thilde overhear the conversation because they are playing in secret under a table (Martin is sexually molesting her). A desperate Gunther, who has no intention to leave his studies, talks to his uncle Herbert who tells him that he is ready to leave Germany with his wife and daughters. Joachim goes to bed and hears a scream, but ignores it (the film never clarifies what the scream was about but we can guess later that someone caught Martin molesting Thilde). Friedrich tells Sophie that Herbert will be arrested by dawn. In fact, at dawn the police arrive and Herbert has to flee from a window leaving his family behind. Herbert's gun is found next to the body of Joachim, murdered in his bed (Joachim is not the one who screamed because we saw him hearing the scream). Aschenbach admits to Friederich that he killed Joachim. Sophie, Friedrich and Martin approach Konstantin, and Martin, programmed by his mother Sophie, tells uncle Konstantin that he, as the son of the oldest son, will inherit the majority of shares and has decided to appoint Friedrich as successor to Joachim, thereby usurping Konstantin's position. Now Aschenbach's plot is clear: by killing Joachim and framing Herbert, he got rid of both brothers, and can now play Martin, the son of Friedrich's lover Sophie, as his own puppet. Joachim's funeral takes place in front of the flaming steelworks. One of Friedrich's first decisions is to forbid sales of heavy weapons to Konstantin's unit, as desired by Aschenbach's Nazis who don't want a dangerous rival for power. Aschenbach also wants the company to contribute financially to Hitler's political campaign, but Friedrich objects that Konstantin has visibility of the company's business and would expose him for corruption. Friedrich is horrified hearing that Aschenbach is ready to kill Konstantin if necessary.
One night Nazis burn thousands of copies of "un-German" books. Gunther is expelled from university because the wanted dissident Herbert wrote a letter to him. Herbert's wife Elizabeth is denied a permit to travel abroad with her daughters and begs Sophie to help her. Sophie makes a phone call and Elizabeth is allowed to leave. Sophie also lectures Elizabeth about the fact that Nazism will soon control the whole of Europe.
Martin visits his girlfriend Olga who lives in a humble apartment with her little daughter Lisa. His girlfriend works at night (presumably a prostitute) and Martin visits on purpose when she is not there so he can be alone with Lisa. Her mother Olga (Martin's girlfriend) returns home late at night. One day Lisa hangs herself. The cops summon Konstantin who promises to take care of Martin personally. After disappearing for three days, Martin issues a call for the meeting of shareholders without informing Friedrich and his mother Sophie. Meanwhile, Konstantin takes control of the steelworks and hijacks the heavy weapons that Friedrich (or, better, Aschenbach) didn't want to give him. Sophie is anguished that Martin has disappeared. One night she sees a light in the attic and, sure enough, she finds Martin hiding there. Martin is terrified of Konstantin. We understand that Konstantin has been blackmailing Martin after discovering that he is a pedophile, responsible for Lisa's death. To please Konstantin, Martin plans to publicly announce that he withdraws his support for Friedrich and now supports Konstantin: now we know why Konstantin is behaving like the new boss. Sophie informs Aschenbach who promises to take care of Konstantin. Sophie also asks Aschenbach to make sure that the Nazis will turn the steelworks from a stock company into a company owned by Friedrich only. Then she will be able to marry him. Aschenbach reminds Sophie that this is equivalent to disinheriting her own son Martin. Later Sophie tells Friedrich of the plan to get rid of Konstantin, and Aschenbach wants him in person to kill Konstantin. One night Konstantin's unit (dozens of soldiers) gets together in a hotel and indulge in a night-long bacchanalian orgy of drinking and homosexual sex. At dawn, the hotel is attacked by Aschenbach's fanatical Nazis who coldly execute all the soldiers of Konstantin's unit and Friedrich personally kills Konstantin. After the massacre (which evokes the real "Night of the Long Knives"), Aschenbach reveals to Martin that Lisa was a Jew, implying that it's not a big deal that a Jew killed herself after being sexually molested by a German. Aschenbach has decided to dump Friedrich and offers an alliance to Martin. Aschenbach basically pits mother (Sophie) against son (Martin). Martin confesses that he has been hating both for years. Martin is resentful that his mother always humiliated him and ignored him. One evening Friedrich is angry that the entire family missed an important inauguration ceremony, and demands to be respected as the leader of the family, not only of the business, although he is not yet married to Sophie. The family argument is interrupted by the unexpected arrival of Herbert. He says that Elizabeth and his daughters never joined him because they were tricked: they were deported to an internment camp and Elizabeth died. Herbert is willing to surrender and sign a "confession" in return for the release of his daughters. As Herbert walks out, Martin reveals to Gunther that Friedrich killed his father Konstantin so that Gunther joins the conspiracy against Friedrich and Sophie. Sophie tries in vain to stop Martin, who vents all his hatred against her. Aschenbach calmly enjoys the scene. Martin is now shown as also a drug addict. Under the influence of the drugs he admits to his mother Sophie that he has always morbidly loved her and he has been jealous of Friedrich and that he wants to destroy her. He undresses and rapes her. The shock of being raped by her own son causes Sophie to become apathetic. The following day Friedrich tries in vain to make her understand that they are in danger. She lies in bed and doesn't say a word. Martin shows up wearing a full Nazist uniform and forces Friedrich and his mother to get married. After a subdued party in front of a giant SS banner, Martin personally escorts the groom and the bride (who looks like a ghost) to the big room of the mansion where they are welcomed in silence by the guests. The melancholy wedding is celebrated in a few words. Martin then offers drinks to everybody. Nobody cheers. Friedrich and Sophie quietly walk out of the room and Martin follows them in the library. Martin then deposits two cyanide capsules on the table and returns to the guests in the other room while two Nazis guard the door to the library. After a few minutes, Martin returns to the room, finds the two dead bodies on the couch and gives them the Nazi salute.

Analogamente nel virtuosistico Morte a Venezia (1971), da Thomas Mann, la violenta carica emozionale di stampo espressionista e una insana struggente vocazione al titanismo prorompono nella dissoluzione prima morale e poi fisica. Il racconto di Mann si tramuta in una elegante metafora sul destino e sulla morte. La predisposizione teutonica all'autodistruzione e il conflitto fra spiritualismo morboso e razionalismo sfrenato (dualismo mediterraneo/germano) formano l'impalcatura drammatica del funereo e rutilante figuraturismo. Visconti si e` ormai gettato in un decadentismo barocco e romantico, impersonando l'artista dilaniato dalla seduzione della bellezza e delle angosce della morte.

Ludwig (1973), fastoso omaggio wagneriano alla follia utopistica del sovrano bavarese, condensa nella figura del protagonista questa atroce contraddizione: il martirio di un paranoico, invasato di Wagner e della meravigliosa cugina (Romy Schneider), vittima di congiure e di meschinita`. Il film si distende per tre ore come una lunga galleria di affreschi paesaggistici, di miniature d'antiquariato e di monologhi shakespeariani; i cerimoniali della corte riprendono in tutta la loro ambigua crudelta`, intercalata da brevi flash del processo nel quale Ludwig viene condannato ed esautorato: le torve sembianze dei congiurati testimoni-giudici rappresentano l'inesorabile destino che abbattera` la delirante esistenza del mitomane, cosi` come le sue cupe meditazioni sono l'atterrito presentimento della morte. La disperata tetra solitudine del protagonista e` contrappuntata da allucinanti deliri cromatici, da ricostruzioni magiche di ambienti da favola, e da un'opulenza dotta di citazioni; sottolineato da un ritmo lento e solenne.

Succube di una cugina volubile e civettuola diventata imperatrice d'Austria suo malgrado, il capriccioso sovrano rifugge dal matrimonio e dalle responsabilita` del potere. In compenso assiste e protegge in ogni modo Wagner, che lo ripaga approfittandosi della sua generosita`; le spese vertiginose del re (che continua ad erigere castelli inutili) forniscono pero` il pretesto ai nobili per gettare il discredito su di lui; la guerra completa l'opera: Ludwig, vittima di una congiura, si rifugia un uno dei castelli, si ubriaca e gioca con la servitu`; anche l'ultimo ufficiale fedele che ha sventato il complotto si convince della sua pazzia, ma e` troppo tardi; Ludwig e` morto affogato nel laghetto artificiale. Anche Wagner (poco piu` di un piccolo-borghese imbroglione) e la Schneider (che si e` sempre divertita alle sue follie e al suo infantile bisogno di lei), lo hanno tradito.

Gruppo di Famiglia in un Interno (1974) segna un'improvvisa crisi di senilita`: un'opaca drammaturgia della vecchiaia, alla luce di turbe autobiografiche. Con la solita regressione temporale, Visconti esamina l'estinzione del nobile e l'avvento della borghesia verace e spudorata, vuota, stupida, e inutile, databile con la fine dell'ottocento.

Un anziano misantropo ritiratosi in un dannunziano piccolo museo personale, professore d'antiquario ed esteta nostalgico legato ai ricordi dei suoi cari (Flashback a ripetizione), cede controvoglia l'appartamento soprastante a una invadente, sedicente e insistente marchesa, la quale introduce inquilini corrotti, depravati, volgari e rumorosi, l'amante e i loro due figli, due giovani litigiosi che passano il tempo a sbranarsi l'un l'altro e attentano alla sua tranquillita`. Ma quando la famiglia se ne va, lasciando dietro di se` una lunga scia di nefandezze, sul professore si abbatte una tremenda solitudine: si distende sul letto e muore.

L'Innocente (1976), alle prese con il romanzo di D'Annunzio, superominismo e autodistruzione, degradazione e decadenza, completano il loro processo di involuzione: tutti i temi classici di Visconti sono replicati nel film, con il consueto scrupolo, in particolare quello strisciante dell'usurpazione da parte di una classe degradante; ma per il resto il film annaspa in una mediocrita` illustrativa e in una sfocata letterarieta`.

Uomo di spettacolo nel senso piu` completo del termine, Visconti si e` crogiolato nel sistema anti-sillogistico delle contraddizioni ambizione / decadenza, aristocrazia / populismo, eleganza / violenza, delicatezza / sesso, nostalgia / progressismo, famiglia / storia, che si possono ricondurre tutte a quella vita / morte.

Maestro nel pescare nel torbido del sesso e della violenza, e` stato di conseguenza anche maestro nel delineare personalita` acerbe e tormentate, sfasciate dalle emozioni.

Visconti mori` nel 1976.


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