|The Leopard |
Original film poster
|Directed by||Luchino Visconti|
|Produced by||Goffredo Lombardo|
Pietro Notarianni costume designer Piero Tosi
|Written by||Pasquale Festa Campanile|
Suso Cecchi d'Amico
|Based on||The Leopard|
by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa
|Music by||Nino Rota|
|Edited by||Mario Serandrei|
|Distributed by||Titanus (Italy - Theatrical)|
Medusa Entertainment (Italy - Current)
20th Century Fox (U.S.)
|161 Min (US Theatrical Release)|
185 Min (US Uncut Version)
195 Min (French Version)
205 Min (Full Version)
|Box office||$1,800,000 (US/ Canada)|
3,649,498 admissions (France)
The Leopard (Italian: Il Gattopardo, "The Serval"; alternative title: Le Guépard) is a 1963 Italian epic period drama film by director Luchino Visconti, based on Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa's novel of the same title. It stars Burt Lancaster, Claudia Cardinale, Alain Delon, Serge Reggiani, Mario Girotti, and Pierre Clementi.
In Sicily in 1860, Don Fabrizio Corbera, Prince of Salina enjoys the customary comforts and privileges of an ancient and noble name. War has broken out between the armies of Francis II of the Two Sicilies and the insurgent volunteer redshirts of Giuseppe Garibaldi. Among the rebels is the Prince's remarkably handsome and dashing nephew, Tancredi, with whose romantic politics the Prince shares some whimsical sympathy. Moved by the uprising, the Prince departs for nearby Palermo. Garibaldi's army conquers the city and Sicily from the Bourbons. The Prince muses upon the inevitability of change, with the middle class displacing the hereditary ruling class while on the surface everything remains the same.
Refusing to bend to the tide of necessity, the Prince departs for his summer palace at Donnafugata. A new national assembly has called a plebiscite which the nationalists win 512-0, thanks to the corruption of the town's leading citizen, Don Calogero Sedara, who himself sees his daughter, the exquisitely beautiful Angelica, as a ticket of admittance to the high-class soirées of the nobility. Bringing her with him to the villa of the Salinas, he watches as both the Prince and Tancredi fall abjectly in love with her. Realizing his chance, he effectively pimps his daughter to the aristocracy and Tancredi offers his hand. The Prince sees the wisdom of the match, since he knows his nephew's vaulting ambition and need for ready cash, which Angelica's father, greedy for familial prestige, will happily make available. With the mutual blessing of the Prince of Salina and Don Calogero, Tancredi and Angelica become engaged.
A visitor from the constituent assembly comes to the villa. He begs the great scholar and nobleman to join the senate and help direct the ship of state; particularly, he hopes that the Prince's great compassion and wisdom will help alleviate the poverty and ignorance to be seen everywhere on the streets of Sicily. But the Prince demurs and refuses this invitation, claiming that Sicily prefers its sleep to the agitations of modernity because they are proud of who they are. He sees a future when the leopards and the lions, along with the sheep and the jackals, will all live according to the same law, but he does not want to be a part of this democratic vision. He notes that Tancredi has shifted allegiances from the insurgent Garibaldi to the King's army, and wistfully recognizes in his nephew the kind of opportunist and time-server who will flourish in the new Italy.
A great ball is held at the villa of a neighboring Prince, and the Salinas and Tancredi attend. Afflicted by a combination of melancholia, the ridiculousness of the nouveau riche, and age, the Prince wanders forlornly from chamber to chamber, increasingly disaffected by the entire edifice of the society he so gallantly represents - until Angelica approaches and asks him to dance. Stirred and momentarily released from his cares, the Prince accepts, and once more he resembles the elegant and dashing figure of his past. Disenchanted, he leaves the ball alone and asks Tancredi to arrange carriage for his family, and walks out with a heavy heart to a dark alley that symbolizes Italy's inordinate and fading past, which he inhabits.
The film features an international cast including the American Burt Lancaster, the Frenchman Alain Delon, the Italian Claudia Cardinale (who is dubbed in the Italian version by Solvejg D'Assunta because her native tongue was Sicilian and French) and Terence Hill (Mario Girotti). In the Italian-language 185 minutes version, Lancaster's lines are dubbed into Italian by Corrado Gaipa; while in the 161-minute U.S English dubbed version, Lancaster's original voice work is heard.
When Visconti was told by producers that they needed to cast a star in order to help to ensure that they'd earn enough money to justify the big budget, the director's first choice was one of the Soviet Union's preeminent actors, Nikolai Cherkasov. Learning that Cherkasov was in no condition, Twentieth Century Fox stipulated that the star should be either Gregory Peck, Anthony Quinn, Spencer Tracy or Burt Lancaster. The producers chose Hollywood star Burt Lancaster without consulting Visconti, which insulted the director and caused tension on the set; but Visconti and Lancaster ended up working well together, and their resulting friendship lasted the rest of their lives.
The Leopard has circulated in at least four different versions. Visconti's first cut was 205 minutes long, but was felt to be excessive in length by both the director and producer, and was shortened to 195 minutes for its Cannes Film Festival premiere. Visconti then cut the film further to 185 minutes for its official release, and considered this version to be his preferred one. The U.S English-dubbed version, in which the Italian and French actors were dubbed over (except for Burt Lancaster, whose original English voice work is heard), was edited down to 161 minutes by its distributor 20th Century Fox.
The film was a hit at the French box office. At the time of its release in the summer of 1963, the majority of American critics panned the film. According to Newsweek, Lancaster looked "as if he's playing Clarence Day's Life with Father in summer stock." Jonathan Miller of The New Yorker derided Lancaster as "muzzled by whiskers and clearly stunned by the importance of his role." However, Time Magazine praised the characterisation of the titular Leopard as solid and convincing.
Later opinion was more positive, New York magazine calling the now-famous ballroom scene "almost unbearably moving." Director Martin Scorsese considers the film to be one of the greatest ever made.
In the decennial poll made by the British Film Institute, it was named the 57th greatest film of all time selected by critics. Review website Rotten Tomatoes reports the film has a 98% "Fresh" rating, based on 47 reviews.
The original 8-perforation Technirama camera negative for The Leopard survives and was used by The Criterion Collection to create their video master for DVD and Blu-ray, with color timing supervised by the film's cinematographer, Giuseppe Rotunno. New preservation film elements were created using a 4K digital scan of the film, done with the cooperation of the Cineteca di Bologna, L'Immagine Ritrovata, The Film Foundation, Gucci, Pathé, Fondation Jérôme Seydoux-Pathé, Twentieth Century Fox, and Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia-Cineteca Nazionale. This restoration premiered at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival to great fanfare.
There are several DVD editions available.