Tuesday, 18 May 2010

(500) Films of Empire - Day 240

260 - El Gattopardo (The Leopard) - 5 stars (event) - 3 stars (film)
No matter what I thought of the film, this particular viewing experience will definitely go down as one of the most memorable.
I was surprised to find one of the (500) Films of Empire screening at the festival but with a lack of other options that evening I decided to queue up for 90 minutes in the hope of getting access to the screening in the Salle Debussy Theatre on La Croisette, as I had already discovered that people like me during the festival are little more than room meat at these things.
Luckily I managed to get in just before the cut off and was presented with a commerative booklet to mark the occasion, the first hint of something special taking place.
20 minutes after the film had been due to start, a man took to the stage and in French apologised for the delay but the guest speaker was caught in traffic and would be here shortly. Now I hadn't really spoken French since Standard Grade but I did manage to get the jist of what he was saying and I managed to make out one particular word... Scorsese.
A murmur of excitement washed over the poor people like me in the balcony as we peered over to the main floor where we saw the likes of Cannes judges Kate Beckinsale, Benecio Del Toro and Michel Haneke.
A few minutes later, Martin Scorsese took to the stage to introduce the film, explaining that it was one of his favourites and how it constantly inspires him, and then spoke about his work on the restoration of the film and an empassioned speech about how these films should be kept in great condition for future generations.
That was followed by a standing ovation as Scorsese was joined by the film's stars Alain Delon and Claudia Cardinale (who has had some minor work done since the films release :) ).
But what about the actual film? That is of course what I'm meant to be reviewing.
I must start off by admitting that I nearly nodded off during the film. It is a very long film (186 minutes) and there are times during the film where not much happens, and I had been up for 20+ hours a day while at the festival so my eyes were starting to close but I managed to wake myself up enough that I didn't miss anything.
The Leopard looks at the changes that are affecting Italy following the unification of the country in the 1869's. These changes are reflectedby focusing on one particular family led by Prince Salina, a Sicilian landowner played by Burt Lancaster. Despite being an American in an Italian film, Lancaster has the screen presence required and by the end of the film you can't imagine anyone else in the role, he just has someone else's voice dubbed over the top!
It is a film that takes it's time. Don't expect much in the way of a fast-moving plot, instead the screen is filled with sumptuous visuals that benefit from the immaculate digital restoration, and rich character development with great performances from Delon and the beautiful Cardinale as the young couple in love.
The film ends with an epic ballroom sequence at a party which my mum would probably love due to the wonderful costumes, but it marks the end of an era, where the youth are due to take over the running of the country and is suitably poignant.
There is much to enjoy about this film as long as you don't go in expecting a thrill-a-minute blockbuster, as instead it is a poem to a certain time and place of Italian history.

Days remaining - 125 Films remaining - 152

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