15 October 2007
Luchino Visconti's epic 1963 film Il Gattopardo does what so few films today or at any point in time have been brave enough to do: it lets scenes flow past the point when most editors would have inserted a scene break, lets the characters TALK to eachother and express how the surrounding events have affected them, lets a dance last for minutes as the characters put their lives and worries on hold as they twirl through the halls of a palace. I can't tell you how refreshing it is to see a movie that knows how to hold an audience's interest while still adopting a deliberate pace that extends to a nearly 3 hour running time.
This is a movie in which no one is born and no one dies, no one becomes married and no one becomes widowed. In fact, other than an excellent sequence towards the beginning of the film, the revolution occuring is relegated to a few gun shots heard in the distance and the stories told by generals taking in an evening out.
The real story is found in the eyes of Burt Lancaster, the head of an Italian noble family, as he faces the inescapable fact that his generation no longer knows the country they used to lead. As his family relation, played by gorgeous Alain Delon, becomes engaged to an enchanting young woman, the equally gorgeous Claudia Cardinale, and rises in power, the aging prince must look on and wonder whether anything will ever truly change.
This is the type of movie no one seems able to make anymore. Sure, Hollywood makes long movies and costume dramas, but none are able to capture the magic quite like this. It's hard to truly describe the feeling I got when I was younger, popping in the first VHS tape of The Sound of Music on a Friday night in the living room and settling in for a long adventure that transported me into a different world, but it is films like this that give that same wonderful feeling.