Visconti. His strengths here are the big two films: The Leopard and Rocco and His Brothers. Also, Visconti, oddly enough, touches many of the major artistic movements in the art forms young history. Ossessione is part neo-realism and part noir. La Terra Trema is almost purely neorealistic but a decade later he’s waving goodbye to neorealism and conquers the epic (right there with David Lean) with The Leopard.

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set design opulence in The Leopard

Best film:  Rocco and His Brothers – part neorealism and part Visconti decorated elegance. It’s ambitious and you can feel the operatic weight and size of it (not unlike The Leopard despite the fact that it’s largely a family drama).

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framing and angling in Rocco and His Brothers
from Rocco again- the arrangement of characters — light– great b/w set design here

total archiveable films: 10

top 100 films: 0

top 500 films: 3 (Rocco and His Brothers, The Leopard, Ossessione)

top 100 films of the decade: 3 (Rocco and His Brothers, The Leopard, Ossessione)

most overrated:  #497 on TSPDT is just too lofty for me for La Terra Trema. This film is his heaviest neo-realism film—a story of a fishing town—and frankly I think Varda’s La Poine Courte (1955) wrestles with the same subject matter in superior fashion. However, I’ve only seen it once and look forward to the revisit.

most underrated:  TSPDT has Ossessione as #755 and Visconti’s 7th best. I have it 3rd and #375 overall. This is his noir film (before noir exists) and it actually plagiarizes Cain’s novel The Postman Always Rings Twice. It’s an excellent film.

gem I want to spotlight:  The Leopard. I still think TSPDT overrates it (#74 all-time) but seeing it on Blu-ray blew me away and I still want to mention that here. It was a different film from the VHS I had seen twice between 1999-2004.

epic film-making that rivaled David Lean in The Leopard

stylistic innovations/traits:  If you learn about Visconti you learn about his films. He was an aristocrat with a committed Marxist who was a homosexual and former set designer and interior designer.  The final portion as a set designer comes across most readily in terms of visual style so that’s my interest here. As I said above he had influences in both neorealism ANDfilm noir. He had an operatic sense of style and featured films about societies, mostly high, who justly crumbled. His films are wonderfully decorated and are elegant- opulent (but he was critical of it- he adored Bunuel and hated Antonioni if that tells you anything on his narrative thesis).

mise-en-scene perfection in Death in Venice

top 10

  1. Rocco and His Brothers
  2. The Leopard
  3. Ossessione
  4. Death in Venice
  5. Senso
  6. The Damned
  7. The Innocent
  8. Ludwig
  9. La Terra Trema
  10. Conversation Piece
an immaculate shot from Senso

By year and grades

1943-Ossessione MS
1948- La Terra Trema R
1954- Senso
1960- Rocco and His Brothers MP
1963- The Leopard MS
1969- The Damned
1971- Death In Venice
1973- Ludwig R
1974- Conversation Piece
1976- The Innocent

*MP is Masterpiece- top 1-3 quality of the year film

MS is Must-see- top 5-6 quality of the year film

HR is Highly Recommend- top 10 quality of the year film

R is Recommend- outside the top 10 of the year quality film but still in the archives