Visconti. His strengths here are the big two films: The Leopard and Rocco and His Brothers. Also, Luchino 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.
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).
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.
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).
- Rocco and His Brothers
- The Leopard
- Death in Venice
- The Damned
- The Innocent
- La Terra Trema
- Conversation Piece
By year and grades
|1948- La Terra Trema||R|
|1960- Rocco and His Brothers||MP|
|1963- The Leopard||MS|
|1969- The Damned|
|1971- Death In Venice|
|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
Post the recent study, we are looking at a Top 25/30 director??
2 MP, 7/8 Top 100 films of the decade. On par with Leone?
@AP– Good call here- yes, that feels like the likely landing spot. I was very impressed.
Do you already consider The leopard a masterpiece?
@Aldo- moved it from a really high-end MS to masterpiece in February when I finally caught up with it again – feel confident about it http://thecinemaarchives.com/2020/02/25/the-leopard-1963-visconti/
Shouldn’t you perhaps have Death in Venice as your most overrated if you don’t consider it Top 500 and TSPDT has it in the top 200?
@Z– yep- probably- I just hadn’t seen it in so long I don’t have a grade for it when writing the page- but I agree with you. That’s a big difference.
I just found the site, I don’t know what’s going on here. Page not updated? How can a legendary director like Luchino Visconti be so low on the list?
Yeah @Vieri i agree, no one makes movies fancier than him.
If you use the search engine you can find the reviews of the leopard, rocco, ossessione, good reviews
I’m not sure where they will move it, what range do you think is appropriate? maybe 35-25
Maybe Drake can tell where i’ll put it
Yes, his films are so stylish. I might be biased because I really like Visconti. I would say 20-25, maybe Top 20 because I wouldn’t put other Italian directors besides Fellini and Antonioni above him. Visconti was the only Italian director with classics in four different decades. I think he was very influential and maybe the most consistent. Rocco and The Leopard are definitely MP. I agree Ossessione and Senso are MS. I don’t know maybe Senso could be MS/MP. I also think Death in Venice, Ludwig and La Terra Trema are great films that can be MS. This might be an unpopular opinion about Ludwig. Bellissima, White Nights and Sandra, I wouldn’t call these great films but definitely good enough to be R. I agree and I really like the last two, The Innocent and Coversation Piece should be R/HR and HR. Pretty impressive that he directed these two in a wheelchair. I don’t know how I feel about The Stranger, it’s impossible to form an opinion because I haven’t seen this one in good quality. I have mixed feelings about The Damned, it’s definitely a classic and influential film, it’s MS for Visconti’s and Fassbinder’s fans. I think The Damned should be at least HR.
I saw the reviews to Ossessione MP, La Terra Trema MS and White Nights MS after writing the comment. It’s nice to see that people give Ossessione the respect this film deserves. Also, I like White Nights I think it’s very good but I prefer his 70’s films. Are there reviews for the other films as well? I’m curious to see what other people think about Ludwig, Bellissima, Sandra and especially The Damned
@Vieri- Sadly I was not able to track down Ludwig, Bellissima, Sandra or The Damned for this study. I’m keeping my eye out for them going forward.
@Vieri, yeah i’m also a fan of Visconti, his comments have inspired me to embark on a study of him, unfortunately some of his films are very long.
Imagine you’re Charles Foster Kane and on your deathbed a camera pulls up to you and telepathically asks you what your favorite Luchino Visconti film is. These are your final words. What do you answer? I will have to go with Rocco, which I think may well be a top 50 film, though it is reaaaaally close with The Leopard.
@Zane- haha. I’ll have The Leopard slightly ahead when I update the page– both they’re close- both brilliant
I guess The Leopard is a film that just doesn’t translate well to sub-HD home video formats. I couldn’t imagine watching Roma, PlayTime or The Tree of Life in SD. Oddly, Antonioni doesn’t seem to suffer as much in SD despite all his visual splendor, as I mostly fell in love with him in the DVD era. Tarkovsky is the same to some degree. Renoir on the other hand, only fully came to life for me on Blu-Ray. Any idea why that might be Drake?
@Remy- Yeah this is a great topic/question. Unfortunately I don’t have an answer. But once you have the higher quality resolution it is hard to go back. I have turned into quite a snob when it comes to watching less-than-ideal formats
La Terra Trema page is bugging (it doesn’t have text)
@RK- appreciate your help RK, and sorry about that. Should be fixed now
Completed my first study on him yesterday, so here are my thoughts:
Total films watched: 13 (I’m including The Witches (1966) on the list since Visconti directed one of it’s 5 chapters)
Total archiveable films: 12
Top 100 films: 1 (The Leopard)
Top 500 films: 6 (The Leopard, La Terra Trema, Rocco and His Brothers, Ossessione, Senso, White Nights)
Top 100 films of the decade: 8 (The Leopard, La Terra Trema, Rocco and His Brothers, Ossessione, Senso, White Nights, Death In Venice, The Damned)
1. The Leopard
2. La Terra Trema
3. Rocco and His Brothers
6. White Nights
7. Death in Venice
8. The Damned
9. Conversation Piece
Best film: The Leopard. It’s a three horse race with The Leopard, Rocco and His Brothers and La Terra Trema, and The Leopard eventually wins. It’s an grand epic on every scale and it deals greatly with themes such as aging, social classes and the manners of aristocracy under threat. It’s characters, cinematography, dialogue, costumes, setting, the acting (especially from Lancaster) and chemistry between the characters are all great and flawless. It’s one of the most visually beautiful films I have ever seen. You could pause the movie at any point and get a picture on the wall from the still (like in Tarkovsky’s works). Absolute perfection.
But, it’s still very close between those three. With rewatches I could see any of those films changing places in the ranking. Having such film as Rocco and His Brothers as your third best is quite something; any director in top 100-35 would be very proud to have it as his/hers best film. The gap between them is not that big. It’s about 20-30 places between The Leopard and La Terra Trema, and with The Leopard and Rocco and His Brothers it’s about 40 places. It’s even smaller between La Terra Trema and Rocco and His Brothers, about 20 places.
Most overrated: Death in Venice currently ranked as the 189th best film of all time on TSPDT. Don’t get me wrong; It’s aesthetically beautiful, emotionally anguishing and conflicting movie and one of Visconti’s best looking movies visually which deals greatly with themes like sexuality, obsession, beauty and singular persons conflicts. But what it lacks is storytelling and narrative (but it’s not being boring nevertheless). In my books there are about 570 better films than it that are either: narratively better, better at storytelling, more visually beautiful etc.
Most underrated: There are a few. I’ll start with White Nights, which currently sits #1587 on TSPDT. I can’t even imagine there being about 1200 movies better than it; it’s gorgeus black and white cinematography, dialogue, characters, acting and chemistry between the two leads, and storytelling among the others; That’s something what I call pure cinema. It’s ranked in my books somewhere in top 350-400. Another one is Ossessione. #799 on TSPDT. The chemistry between the main characters, the narrative and how it is at the same time neorealism and noir are reasons among many others why it’s a great film. It’s also an important film historically (as it’s held as the film which started neorealism and the film which was noir before it even existed). The gap between my ranking and TSPDT is about 550-600 spots. It’s somewhere in my top 250-200. Third one would be La Terra Trema. It’s #525 on TSPDT. It’s near my top 100. It’s one of the greatest pure neo-realist films of all time. It’s narrative, strong characters and character chemistry, acting by amateur actors, dialogue, the themes, the “slice of life”-story about life of poor Italian fishers and cinematography among the others are flawless.
Gem I want to spotlight: Conversation Piece. It is a great story about an intellectual of his own generation who does not succeed in living in harmony with her own time, but clashes violently with the generation of today. It has very peculiar and strange characters (in a good way) and in my opinion the performances are very good considering how peculiar and strange the characters are. It has a great use of colours (such as red and white) and the orgy scene in it is in my opinion very daring cinema from Visconti (it would be illegal today since the actor of Lietta, Claudia Marsani was only 14-15 in that scene) and I admire it greatly. Visconti directs the hell out of it in a wheelchair.
Stylistic innovations/traits: Visually stunning films, very strong characters, great dialogue, gorgeous costumes and set pieces among the others and strong use of certain colours (such as brown, red, white and dark colours for example). Masterful zoom-, crane- and tracking shots among others and fantastic mise-en-scenes. In his films he deals greatly with such themes as sexuality, obsession and love to name a few.
By year and grades
1948- La Terra Trema MP
1954- Senso MS
1957- White Nights MS
1960- Rocco and His Brothers MP
1963- The Leopard MP
1967- The Stranger R/HR
1967- The Witches <R (not in the archives)
1969- The Damned HR/MS
1971- Death In Venice HR/MS
1973- Ludwig HR
1974- Conversation Piece HR
1976- The Innocent R/HR
@RK- amazing work here! I’m thrilled to see the MP for La Terra Trema and that you have it up that high. The more distance from it I get, the more I’m convinced it is one of the most important works of the 1940s
Basically what he’s saying is “I don’t know the first thing about cinema”
All of the Luchino Visconti films I’ve seen (Senso, White Nights, The Leopard, Rocco and His Brothers) end with shots of characters walking down the street – technically the final shot of Senso is Granger’s execution but it is a notably consistent shot in Visconti’s films.
@James Trapp- thank you for your help locating these pages
Hi Drake, awesome page. Just taking here all the filmmamkers I’m most interesting on your top 250 to doung studies (I’m now at 24/54 selected including Visconti). My question is, will you update the list after giving new rates or new films being watched and after ending the top 100 actresses? Thank you so much, really learning here.
@Jey Neo- Thank you for the kind words on the page here. I wish I could say I go back and update these pages as I go- but for now I’ll just have to revisit the Visconti page and update it all at once when I update all of the directors’ pages. I think the plan is to finish the actor page updates and then update the top 500 list (and push it to top 1000) and only after that update the directors pages. So it could be a little bit. I do have many individual pages for Visconti films if you just search by his name. Perhaps you’ve already found them- but I did a big Visconti study in 2020 and 2021 (after this page here was written- which was 2019).
(1) 1943: Ossessione (MP)
(2) 1948: La Terra Trema (MP)
(3) 1954: Senso (MS)
(4) 1957: Le Notte Bianche (MS)
(5) 1960: Rocco and his Brothers (MP)
(6) 1963: The Leopard (MP)
(7) 1969: The Damned (MS)
(8) 1971: Death in Venice (HR/MS)
(9) 1973: Ludwig (HR/MS)
(10) 1974: Conversation Piece (HR)
(11) 1976: L’Innocente (R/HR)
I just wrapped up my Visconti study last night
1. The Leopard – MP
2. Rocco and His Brothers – MP
3. La Terra Trema – MP
4. Death in Venice – MS
5. Senso – MS
6. Le Notti Bianche – MS
7. Ludwig – MS (very close to HR/MS though)
8. Ossessione – HR/MS
9. The Damned – HR
– I first watched The Leopard almost one year ago today and it was one of the most underwhelming experiences for me last year, but put it on for a second time last night and was absolutely blown away.
– The biggest surprise for me was Le Terra Trema, before my rewatch last night I thought it had a legit claim to being #1 here
– Will probably watch The Damned again tonight so will do a follow up post if that grade moves
– I suspect on Drake’s list Visconti will be one of the biggest growers as on the site he now has 4 MP’s and 5 other films that will land in the top 1000
– The variety in his filmography is astounding for the time, he’s close to Kubrick and PTA in that regard
– Definitely a mise-en-scene master and also a god at blocking (Le Terra Trema his best blocking work). The visuals aren’t just where he ends though, nearly every film has an incredible narrative with standout performances
– Maybe a top 15 director for me now? Definitely in my top 3 to come out of Italy which is saying something
1. Dirk Borgade in Death in Venice
2. Burt Lancaster in The Leopard
3. Claudia Cardinale in The Leopard
4. Alda Valli in Senso
5. Alain Delon in Rocco and His Brothers
@Harry – nice work, makes me excited to check out La Terra Trema and Death in Venice especially. Rocco and His Brothers is my favorite Italian film. Delon is amazing but I don’t think Renato Salvatori is all that far behind. Cinema is great at embracing individuals, I think family sagas tend to get overlooked.
@James – have you seen The Damned? That makes a third (or fourth if The Leopard counts) epic family saga from Visconti
@Harry – yes once a few years ago, it was one of those films Ebert despised that I thought quite highly of. The Leopard is amazing, I’ve seen it twice.
@Harry – Really well done here, Harry. Thanks for sharing
Wow. Visconti is going to skyrocket up the next director ranking it seems.
La terra trema MP
Le Notti Bianche MS
Rocco and His Brothers MP
The Leopard MP
The Damned MS
Conversation Piece HR
Also forgot Death in Venice as HR/MS
@LeBron Smith Yes, for sure
Visconti is an interesting one. I feel like he is underrated by people today. But when he was working he clearly had the respect of actors and producers and Studios were willing to give him money to do whatever he wanted to do. Look at the actors he worked with despite being Italian. Burt being the main one but also Delon, Bogarde, Thulin, Rampling and even Anna Karina. Not to mention some of that era’s best Italian actors like Mastroianni, Cardinale and Valli. Even Farley Granger was a popular actor when Visconti cast him in Senso. Although I’m ROFL that producers thought he was a bigger star than Brando at the time haha.