don luchino visconti conte di modrone

Luchino Visconti


Luchino Visconti di Modrone, Count of Lonate Pozzolo (November 2, 1906 - March 17, 1976) was an Italian theatre and cinema director and writer, best known for films such as The Leopard (1963). He died in Rome of a stroke at the age of 69. There is a museum dedicated to the director's work in Ischia.

Early life

Born into a noble and wealthy family (one of the richest of northern Italy), in Milan, Visconti's father Giuseppe Visconti di Modrone was the Duke of Grazzano, and Visconti had six siblings. Due to his upbringing, Visconti was able to be exposed to art, music and theater, and to meet some of the forerunners in each, such as the composer Giacomo Puccini, the conductor Arturo Toscanini, and the writer Gabriele D'Annunzio. After World War II Visconti joined the Italian Communist Party.

Visconti in the film industry

In 1936, at the age of 30, he went to Paris and began his filmmaking career as third assistant director in Jean Renoir's Une partie de campagne (1936), thanks to the intercession of a common friend, Coco Chanel. After a short tour to the U.S., where he visited Hollywood, he returned to Italy to be Renoir's assistant again, this time for La Tosca (1939), a production that was interrupted and later completed by German director Karl Koch because of the war.

Together with Roberto Rossellini, Visconti joined the salotto of Vittorio Mussolini (the son of Benito, at the time the national arbitrator for cinema and other arts) and here presumably met also Federico Fellini. With Gianni Puccini, Antonio Pietrangeli and Giuseppe De Santis he wrote the screenplay for his first film as director: Ossessione (Obsession) (1943), the first neorealist movie and an adaptation of the novel The Postman Always Rings Twice. In 1948, he wrote and directed La Terra trema (The Earth Trembles), based on the novel I Malavoglia by Giovanni Verga.

Visconti was one neo-realist director who was able to continue working throughout the 1950’s, although he veered away from the neorealist path with his 1954 film, Senso, which was also filmed in Technicolor. Based on the novella by Camillo Boito, it is set in Austrian-occupied Venice in 1866 and in it, Visconti combines realism and romanticism as a way to break away from neorealism. However, as one biographer notes, “Visconti without neorealism is like Lang without expressionism and Eisenstein without formalism and he describes the film the “most Viscontian” of all Visconti’s films.

He returned to neorealism one more time in 1960 with Rocco and his Brothers, the story of southern Italians who migrate to Milan hoping to find financial stability. Throughout the 1960’s, Visconti’s films became more personal. The Leopard (Il Gattopardo), made in 1963, and based on Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa’s novel about the decline of the Sicilian aristocracy. It starred American actor Burt Lancaster in the role of Prince Don Fabrizio.

This film was distributed throughout both America and England, but in the process, Twentieth-Century Fox scaled it down with important scenes completely deleted. These cuts and the poor dubbing quality ensured that the essence of the film was lost in this version. Visconti repudiated it, and took no responsibility for it whatsoever.

He told an American reporter in 1961, “I believe in life, that is the central point ... I believe in organized society. I think it has a chance”. Even when not focusing on sending a message to his audience about war or poverty, Visconti was still dealing with life and all its glory and hardships.

It was not until his 1969 film, The Damned, that Visconti received a nomination for an Academy Award, for "Best Screenplay". However, he did not win. The film, one of Visconti's best-known works, is about a German industrialist family that slowly begins to disintegrate during World War II. The decadence and lavish beauty are characteristic of Visconti's aesthetic.

Visconti's final film was The Innocent (1976), which has the recurring theme of infidelity and betrayal.

Filmography as film director

Visconti as theatre and opera director

Visconti was also a celebrated theatre and opera director. During the years 1946-1960 he directed many performances of the Rina Morelli-Paolo Stoppa Company, with Vittorio Gassmann plus many celebrated productions of operas.

In many ways, Visconti's love of opera- and especially the operas of Giuseppe Verdi - is evidenced in the 1954 Senso, where the beginning of the film shows scenes from the fourth act of Il trovatore, which were filmed at the famed Teatro La Fenice in Venice. Beginning with a production at Milan's Teatro alla Scala of La vestale in December 1954, which Visconti directed, his career included a famous revival of La traviata at La Scala in 1955 with Maria Callas, and an equally famous Anna Bolena (also at La Scala) in 1957, also with Maria Callas. A significant 1958 Royal Opera House, Covent Garden London production of Verdi's five act Italian version of Don Carlos followed, along with a Macbeth in Spoleto in 1958 and a famous black-and-white Il trovatore (scenery and costumes designed by Filippo Sanjust) at Covent Garden in 1964. In 1966 Visconti's luscious Falstaff for the Vienna State Opera (conducted by Leonard Bernstein) was critically acclaimed, whereas his austere 1969 Simon Boccanegra with the singers clothed in geometrical costumes caused some controversies.

Opera productions directed by Visconti

Personal life

Visconti made no secret of his homosexuality. His last partner was the Austrian actor Helmut Berger, who played Martin in The Damned. Berger also appeared in Visconti's Ludwig in 1972 and Conversation Piece in 1974 along with Burt Lancaster. Other lovers included Franco Zeffirelli.



Further reading

  • Bacon, Henry, Visconti: Explorations of Beauty and Decay, New York: Cambridge University Press, 1998 ISBN 0-521-59960-1
  • Viscontiana: Luchino Visconti e il melodramma verdiano, Milan: Edizioni Gabriele Mazzotta, 2001. (A catalogue for an exhibition in Parma of artifacts relating to Visconti's productions of operas by Verdi, curated by Caterina d'Amico de Carvalho, in Italian. ISBN 8820215187

External links

See also

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