Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Il gattopardo (The Leopard) Chat

Tracy:  So: The Leopard. A movie where it takes thirty minutes to relate a five-minute long conversation.
Natalie:  Exactly. And when that becomes a 3+hour movie, "it's pretty" doesn't make it any better.
Tracy:  God, it was SO SLOW. It almost felt like the speed was wrong on the DVD. Every shot was held for beats too long. And just when I thought I was going to get involved in the story--ooh, political subversion! ooh, a love triangle!--it turned out not to be that important to the people in the movie.
Natalie:  Right. And then we spend an hour at a ball in which nothing happens. I wouldn't stay at a ball that long in person if nothing were happening.
Tracy:  Hah! I kept expecting Angelica to actually be related to them or something, but no, it was all like listening to someone relate the past few months of their life. This happened. And then this happened. And then we went to a ball. I sort of got a Faulknerian feel from it--that the world was being "Snopesified" and there was this nostalgia for the lost aristocracy, but I think I was just so desperate for something to happen, I might have made that up.
Natalie:  Or for Angelica's mother to actually come into play and cause a problem. Or for something to be wrong with Angelica. For there to be a consequence to any action. Or something. There was definitely a nostalgia for the lost aristocracy but we don't see so much of that; there is an hour long ball at the end where the only disruptions are an uncouth father-in-law-to-be and a braggart army guy. Surely, balls of that size usually have two people who don't fit in--you can read Austen and find that. And, an aristocrat marries slightly below him. But she's not a peasant and, again, that happens. I think more was needed to actually illustrate the point--the way Downton Abbey manages it perhaps in that we see some characters clinging to the past, some characters fully embracing the future, and some stuck in between but we see multiple classes of people and how the rise of the lower classes actually impacts the higher class. With The Leopard, we're only in the drawing room and only see those who are invited in, not those who have pushed their way in via the revolution.
Tracy:  Jesus! I completely forgot about Angelica's crazed nympho mother! How can you mention that and then not have it be significant? It's like breaking Chekhov's gun rule. And that's a good comparison with Downton Abbey--we actually see this kind of social change be a struggle and literally painful in individual lives. It's hard to communicate that kind of existential drama when you have 8 million shots of a road with no dialogue. And I'm sorry, the incredibly intrusive music wasn't doing it for me either. I will say this--Lancaster looked pretty good getting out of the tub, and like we talked about, there was some serious architecture porn going on. But that's not enough to sustain a 3-hour long movie. It's like it wanted to be an epic, and had all the ingredients for an epic, and mixed them all in, but forgot to put it in the oven.
Natalie:  Yes! Yes! Yes! It was completely raw and needed some serious editing of the landscape shots and the ball. But, agreed, I enjoyed Burt Lancaster and I'm sure a lot of people enjoyed Angelica because she looked like she might devour someone at any minute. But, it didn't make it to epic status for me. So, the book . . . . . has two catchphrases it can’t ignore: “Oscar winner” and “cult classic.” Apparently, The Leopard is the latter (it was nominated for costume design but that’s not mentioned). The book makes a few errors in simple plot then proceeds to heap praise on the “brightly directed and photographed” film that includes a bevy of “symbolic connotations” and is declared “one of the best adaptations in the history of cinema” (from Giuseppe Tomasi Di Lampedusa’s novel of the same name). The book continues its praise by applauding Burt Lancaster and, director, Luchino Visconti (“No other filmmaker handled Lancaster the way Visconti did, making him look so aristocratic, so distinguished, but also so human”) as well as the shared supposed obsession with death among author and main character. Intriguingly, the book claims this film “mesmerizes huge audiences and is at the same time highly personal.”
Tracy:  Angelica could have been so much cooler--she peaked when she had that long inappropriate laugh at dinner. A "cult classic"? Really? I don't think the book watched the movie. And though I've never read the book, I seriously doubt the adaptation is that magnificent. Did it try to replicate how long it would take to read the book with the movie? It mesmerizes only in the sense that it lulls you into complacency. Lancaster was good, and maybe a bit death obsessed at the ball, but that ball would make anyone long for death. I would say the only reason to see this is the costumes. For how these elements are actually supposed to work--see The Godfather.
Natalie:  Agreed about Angelica. She didn't do anything else for the rest of the film. If this adaptation is magnificent, I worry about the book and why anyone would adapt it in the first place. I wasn't mesmerized at all; if I were, I wouldn't have stopped it in the middle to watch bad TV. It seemed he was a tad death obsessed but also that maybe he was actively ill--like he ate a bad shrimp or something--so it was hard for me to give the film that. Well, we'll see that one later :)
Tracy:  Hah! I know! I kept expecting him to keel over from a metaphorically resonant heart attack, but  nope. He just wandered around looking vaguely dyspeptic. So do you say keep it in? I can't think of anything it does influence wise that Lawrence of Arabia or something similar doesn't and better.
Natalie:  Ha! That would have worked for me. I don't see a reason to keep it. I can't think of anything it does, even in Italian, that another film doesn't do and I'm pretty sure even if it were only a performance based inclusion (which the book doesn't indicate) we could find another Lancaster, Vicsonti, whomever else, that is better. Well, maybe not Visconti if this is his crowning glory.
And there are 4 other Visconti movies for us to try out that theory.
Tracy:  Oh, great. I want to know what "cult" finds this a "classic." I say, boot it.
Natalie:  HA! Not a cult that we want to be a part of I'm pretty sure. Agreed! On to the wild west
Tracy:  Yippie kay yay, etc.!

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