Making its long-awaited U.S. home video debut, Luchino Visconti's The Leopard is an epic on the grandest possible scale. The film recreates, with nostalgia, drama, and opulence, the tumultuous years when the aristocracy lost its grip and the middle classes rose and formed a unified, democratic Italy. Burt Lancaster stars as the aging prince watching his culture and fortune wane in the face of a new generation, represented by his upstart nephew (Alain Delon) and his beautiful fiancée (Claudia Cardinale). Awarded the Palme d'Or at the 1963 Cannes Film Festival, The Leopard translates Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa's novel, and the history it recounts, into a truly cinematic masterpiece. The Criterion Collection is proud to present the film in two distinct versions: Visconti's original 187-minute Italian version, and the alternate 161-minute English-language version released in America, in a newly restored, three-disc special edition that also features a new hour-long documentary on the making of the film, and more.
With this magnificent Criterion DVD release, Luchino Visconti's 1963 historical drama The Leopard
will finally earn widespread recognition as one of the most beautiful epics ever produced. In adapting the popular novel
by Giuseppe Tomassi di Lampedusa (an Italian equivalent to Gone with the Wind
, set during the tumultuous Garibaldi revolution of 1860-62), Visconti was initially reluctant to cast Burt Lancaster as the melancholy Prince of Salina--the aging aristocrat "leopard" of the title--who accepts change as inevitable during the struggle for a unified Italy. But Lancaster (even with his voice dubbed in the fully restored Italian release) delivered one of his finest performances, modeled after Visconti himself, and reacting to political and familial upheavals with the wisdom and whimsy of a man who knows that his way of life--and all he holds dear--must change with the times. You won't find a more intimate epic, and Giusseppe Rotunno's masterful cinematography represents the pinnacle of painterly beauty, matched only by the authentic splendor of the film's impeccable production design. The climactic hourlong ballroom scene--which even the hard-to-please Pauline Kael called "one of the greatest of all passages in movies"--is utterly breathtaking. Anchored by Lancaster's performance and the romantic pairing of Alain Delon and Claudia Cardinale, The Leopard
is sheer perfection, fully restored to its 185-minute glory. --Jeff Shannon