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Лукино Висконти – един истински граф на италианското кино

април 17, 2008

 

Италианският филмов режисьр Лукино Висконти (1906 – 1976) е един от оснавателите на Италианския неореализъм. Но Висконти изоставя Неореализма и започва да прави пищни исторически драми, като например „Гепардът”.

Той е не само велик филмов, но и театрален и оперен режисьор, работил със звезди като Ален Делон, Клаудия Кардинале, Мария Калас и много други.

Ето и пълната му биография в английски вариант:

                                                                                                

 

Visconti was born into an aristocratic family as Count Don Luchino Visconti Di Morone on November 2, 1906, in Milan, Italy. He was one of seven children of the Duke of Modrone.

As a member of the Italian aristocracy, Visconti enjoyed a pampered and privileged upbringing that allowed him to pursue whatever activities suited his fancy. His early interests included music and theater. He inherited his musical inclinations from his mother, who was a talented musician. From his father, he inherited a love of the theater, as the Duke operated his own private stage. In the process, Visconti had the opportunity to meet some very famous artists including conductor Arturo Toscanini (1867 – 1957), composer Giacomo Puccini (1858 – 1924), and Italian poet and novelist Gabriele D’Annunzio (1863 – 1938).

Visconti’s earliest education was supervised by his mother, though later he attended private schools in Milan and Como. After his parents separated, he was sent to a boarding school of the Calasanzian Order from 1924 – 26.

Despite the unique opportunities that Visconti’s privilege afforded him, his greatest passion at the time was horse breeding and racing. For nearly eight years, the passion bordered on obsession. But his early life was not all horses and art. From 1926 to 1928, he served in the Reggimento Savoia Cavalleria. At the end of his service, he went back to his artistic pursuits and, in 1928, made his debut as a stage set designer. During this period, he was involved in production at La Scala, working with future opera star Maria Callas.

Moved to Paris

In 1936, at the age of 30, Visconti moved to Paris, where he immersed himself in the intellectual, cultural and political trends that characterized France before World War II. Through his friendship with world – famous fashion designer Coco Chanel, Visconti met the great French filmmaker Jean Renoir. This introduction awoke in Visconti a passion for cinema as an art form.

Visconti served as an assistant to Renoir, working as a costume designer and as an assistant director on Une Partie de campagne (A Day in the Country, 1936) and Les Bas – Fonds (The Lower Depths, 1937). Even though Visconti was now completely fixated on film, he did not give up his interests in the performing arts such as theater and opera.

In 1937, Visconti made a brief visit to Hollywood, but he was disillusioned by the American film factory. When he returned to Italy in 1939, he became a member of the editorial staff of Cinema, a film journal. That year, he also served as assistant director to Renoir on La Tosca.

Politics was another of Visconti’s great interests, and during this period he switched his philosophies fromfascism to communism. When he returned to Italy, he became part of the resistance to the rising tide of fascism, and he would remain a Marxist until his death.

Censors and Church Denounced First Film

Back in Italy, Visconti’s career as a film director began in earnest in the early 1940s and he would soon became a major figure in the Italian neorealist cinematic movement. Neorealism was characterized by an unadornedand truthful depiction of lower – class life. Neorealist directors and their films demonstrated a pronounced social consciousness through concern with lower – class individuals and families and their hardships. The neorealist style was starkly realistic, and depended on film techniques such as long, unbroken takes.

Visconti’s first film, made in 1942, was Ossessione, a loose, unauthorized adaptation of James M. Cain‘s American pulp crime novel The Postman Always Rings Twice. Visconti moved the setting to Italy, and he increased the already heated sexuality of Cain’s story. The film reflected the influence of his early film work with Renoir, specifically in the use of long takes.

Visconti had to sell some family jewels to finance the film, but it was an enormously popular success in Italy, even though it ran into trouble with Fascist censors for its „obscenity.“ The censors objected to Visconti’s steamydepiction of an illicit love affair as well as his harsh representation of Italian provincial life.

The film is considered one of the first „neorealist“ films. Though the film had no overt political message, it still showed unemployment and depicted a harsh portrayal of the institution of marriage. It also had an overtly gay character. Not only did Italian censors denounce the film, but the Catholic Film Center condemned it. Reportedly, in Salsamaggiore, bishops exorcised a theater where it had been shown. Scenes involving the homosexual character were cut but later restored.

Visconti himself was openly bisexual in his lifestyle, as was his father. Though his films depicted only a few homosexual characters, Visconti’s work often possessed elements of homoeroticism, which was often manifested in his choice of attractive leading actors through the years.

Visconti would regularly produce films from 1942 to 1976, but his pace was rather slow, due to the obsessive care he brought to all elements of his productions.

Imprisoned by Gestapo

After adopting the Marxist philosophy, Visconti became an active anti – fascist and he managed to escape persecution by the Mussolini government until the final days of World War II. During the war, Visconti’s palazzobecame a secret headquarters for members of the Communist Resistance. Also, Visconti himself engaged in armed resistance against the German occupiers. Eventually, his activities led to his brief imprisonment in 1944 by the German Gestapo.

After the war, Visconti returned to his previous interests, opera and theater. He was among a generation of theater directors who strived to rejuvenate the Italian theater, which had lost its vitality under the Fascist government, through reinterpretation of plays and by introducing new works. In the upcoming years, Visconti helped introduce playwrights that had been banned by the fascists. These included Jean Cocteau, Jean – Paul Sartre, and Tennessee Williams. The first play that Visconti directed was Cocteau’s Parenti terrible in Rome in 1945.

Visconti established an international reputation as a stage director at the Teatro Eliseo in Rome after the war. Visconti’s stage productions often generated controversy due to their themes and subject matter (e.g., incestand homosexuality). Some of the plays he presented also reflected his left – wing political sympathies, as they often depicted a lead character in conflict with the prevailing attitudes of modern society.

His opera productions earned him as much fame as his film work, particularly his work with Callas, who claimed that Visconti taught her how to act.

Released Second Film

For his second film, released in 1948, Visconti chose overtly Marxist subject matter. La Terra Trema, an adaptation of the Giovanni Verga novel I Malavoglia, concerned life in a poor Sicilian fishing village. Funded by the Italian Communist Party, the film was intended as a documentary trilogy. Visconti wanted to present an encompassing film about the Sicilian poor, but he only managed to complete the first part of his envisioned project, and this involved the exploitation and eventual breakdown of a fishing family.

The film was shot entirely on location in Sicily and possesses the documentary – like style now associated with the neorealist film movement. For some of the roles, Visconti employed locals who were allowed to speak in their native dialects. The film was shot by G.R. Aldo, one of best – known and finest post – war Italian cinematographers, and featured long takes and long shots combined with extensive camera movements.

Moved Away From Neorealism

As good as Visconti’s early film work was, his greatest achievements were ahead of him. His subsequent films featured neorealistic stylings but, during the 1950s, he began producing films that were quite lavish and operatic. A favorite theme involved the moral and economic disintegration of aristocratic families. He was alsopreoccupied with the decadence of the upper classes.

In 1951, he released Bellissima, a satire that starred famed Italian actress Anna Magnani as a stage mother intent on getting her daughter into movies. For his next film, Visconti turned to the works of Verdi. Senso,released in 1954, included sections from the opera Il Trovatore, and is a spectacular, operatic film shot in color. Set in 1866, it involves revolution, forbidden love, and betrayal. Alida Valli played a countess who betrays her Italian nationalism for love during the Austrian occupation of Venice. Though the film was highlymelodramatic, it still reflected Visconti’s Marxist sensibilities, specifically as it related to Italian history, and it marked the end of Visconti’s strict neorealist period, as the director began to commingle realism with a much more elegant style.

That same year, Visconti staged the opera La vestale starring Callas. In 1957, he released an adaptation of Fyodor Dostoevsky’s White Nights starring Marcello Mastroianni and Maria Schell.

Rocco and a Return to Realism

From there, Visconti entered into a period where he produced highly personal works, several of which are regarded as his greatest films. He also concentrated exclusively on film. In 1961, he withdrew from theatrical activities. His film output would include a mixture of contemporary and period films. But almost all would involve reflections on a past that is irretrievably lost and how that loss affects the present, as well as how the loss manifests itself in melancholy and ruminations on the inevitability of death. Many of his films would focus on the collapse of family dynasties and the disintegration of family relationships.

The very realistic and very popular Rocco and his Brothers (1960) would be the last time Visconti focused on working – class subjects. Essentially, the film is a family tragedy that involves the Parandis, a Sicilian peasant family forced to move, for economic reasons, into the industrial northern section of Italy. The film deals with their troubles and disillusionment. In their new home, the Parandis, particularly the brothers, must deal with harsh economic realities as well as the sexual rivalries that threaten their solidarity. The film was hugely successful, both with audiences and critics, and it was Visconti’s personal favorite work.

The film has an episodic structure, as it takes turns focusing on each brother. However, the main focus falls on Rocco (played by Alain Delon, who became an international star because of the film), the loving, protective brother who tries to keep the family together. The brothers are unable to find work and turn to prizefighting, which Visconti portrays as class exploitation. The entrance of the prostitute Nadia into their lives turns brother against brother. Eventually, Nadia is murdered by Simone, the brutal brother whose actions are directed by his insecurities and moral laxity. Rocco tries to save his brother, but is betrayed by Ciro, the younger brother who has become a factory worker involved in labor unions.

 

The Leopard

Visconti may have considered Rocco and his Brothers his favorite film, but his most personal film was The Leopard, a haunting work released in 1963 that details the decline of the Sicilian aristocracy during the nineteenth – century Risorgimento period of Italian history. It is also considered Visconti’s greatest film.

The opulent film, featuring American actor Burt Lancaster in the lead, focuses on one aristocratic Sicilian family forced to endure a substantial transformation due to a marriage that brings the middle class into its fold. It was awarded the Golden Palm at Cannes. However, the film was severely edited for release in the United States, and American audiences had to wait nearly 20 years to view a restored version.

During this period, Visconti developed his reputation as a difficult director. According to the British Film Institute website, one of his lead actresses, Clara Calamai, called him „a medieval lord with a whip.“ Reportedly, he treated Lancaster quite badly. However, Lancaster later said that Visconti was the best director he ever worked with and described him as „an actor’s dream.“

Later Works

In his next film, Sandra (1965), a psychoanalytical treatment of the Elektra myth, Visconti turned to the Italian Resistance, in a story of a wealthy woman haunted by an incestuous relationship with her brother and by the fact that her mother betrayed her Jewish father to the Nazis.

The general consensus is that Visconti took a career misstep with his next film, an adaptation of Albert Camus‘ existential novel The Stranger. Released in 1967, Lo straniero was a failure with both the critics and the public.

An operatic feel, as well as favorite Visconti themes – politics, family disintegration – find their way into the director’s next work, The Damned (1969). Described as „Wagnerian,“ the film delineates the fall of a German industrial family that yielded to Nazism. Visconti used the real – life Krupp family as a schematic model for his story of a family’s descent into betrayal and murder. The allegorical film was described as a „cold“ film that resorted to caricature.

Visconti’s next film, Morte a Venezia (1971), based on the Thomas Mann novel Death in Venice, was praised for its beautiful production values, but it also failed with the critics. Visconti followed this with Ludwig (1972), a four – hour depiction of the life of the „mad“ King Ludwig of Bavaria. Critics found it visually beautiful but overlong.

Suffered a Stroke

While filming Ludwig, Visconti suffered a severe stroke from which he never fully recovered. According to accounts, Visconti smoked up to 120 cigarettes a day, which contributed to the stroke and to his subsequent health problems.

Visconti was nearly paralyzed by the stroke, and he would direct his final two films from a wheelchair. Despite his physical difficulties, the director was back in fine form with Conversation Piece (1975), a semi – autobiographical film about an aging Italian professor at odds with the materialism of the bourgeoisie and the militancy of the radical youth. Lancaster played the professor.

Visconti’s last film was L’Innocente (1976). Based on Gabrielle d’Annunzio’s novel, the film depicts European high society at the end of the twentieth century. Visconti died on March 17, 1976, in Rome, two months before film’s premiere at the Cannes Film Festival; cause of death was cited as influenza and heart disease. He was 69 years old. Visconti’s funeral was held two days later and was attended by Italian President Giovanni Leone and Lancaster.

Right to the end of his illustrious career, Visconti had produced films set in various periods and focusing on a range of subjects. Though the films had deeply personal elements, Visconti always claimed that he never made a film for himself but only for the audience, and the focus was always on the human being. „I was impelled toward the cinema by, above all, the need to tell stories of people who were alive, of people living amid things and not of the things themselves,“ he said in a 1943 interview that was quoted on the Fieri Boston website. „The cinema that interests me is an anthropomorphic cinema. The most humble gestures of man, his bearing, his feelings, and instincts are sufficient to make the things that surround him poetic and alive. The significance of the human being, his presence, is the only thing that could dominate the images.“

 

 

 

1.       Innocente, L’ (1976)

2.       Gruppo di famiglia in un interno (1974) 

3.       Ludwig (1972) 

4.       Morte a Venezia (1971) 

5.       Alla ricerca di Tadzio (1970) 

6.       Caduta degli dei, La (1969) 

7.       Straniero, Lo (1967) 

8.       Vaghe stelle dell’Orsa… (1965)

9.       Gattopardo, Il (1963) 

10.     Rocco e i suoi fratelli (1960) 

11      Notti bianche, Le (1957)

12.     Senso (1954)

13.     Bellissima (1951)

14.     Appunti su un fatto di cronaca (1951) 

15      Terra trema: Episodio del mare, La (1948) 

16.     Giorni di gloria (1945) (Caruso trial scenes) 

17.     Ossessione (1943) 

 

 

 

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