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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Conversation Piece - Gruppo Di Famiglia in un Interno, April 20, 2012
This review is from: Gruppo di Famiglia in un Interno (Conversation Piece) (DVD)
Luchino Visconti is one of the best known Italian directors in the United States, together with Bernardo Bertolucci, Vittorio De Sica, Roberto Rossellini, and few others. He is known for being one of the fathers of the so-called Italian neo-realism film movement from the 40s and 50s, and it is best remembered, for example, by such movies as "The Leopard" (1963) and "Death in Venice" (1971). The exquisite and penetrating "Conversation Piece" (aka "Gruppo Di Famiglia in un Interno") was Visconti's penultimate film before his death, and it is a treat to have it now available in DVD and Blu-ray. And what a delight it is!

"Conversation Piece" is the type of film that I most respect, as it was filmed inside limited interior sets, without any distraction, and with a smart story and dialogue. It stars frequent Visconti collaborator Burt Lancaster (loved by Italian directors) as Il Professore, an aging and retired American professor that lives by himself in a magnificent villa in Rome. His only company is Herminia (Elvira Cortese), his maid, and a few of Herminia's assistants. He truly values his solitude and enjoys collecting art and reading. However, all that changes when he is approached by Bianca Brumonti (the delightful Silvana Mangano), a rich aristocrat who wants to rent an apartment from Il Professore, in order that her younger lover, Konrad Huebel (Helmet Berger), could live in it. He informs her that he is not interested in renting that apartment, because he uses it to store his stuff. Mrs. Brumonti doesn't take no for an answer and basically forces herself into the property. We learn that Il Professore was right in not renting the apartment, as Mrs. Brumonti, her daughter Lietta (Claudia Marsani), her son Stefano (Stefano Patrizi), and Konrad make his life miserable, up to a point in which Lietta says, "There is a tragedy here every five minutes."

The film is very captivating -- there are plenty twists and turns until the very last minute. In addition, Visconti injects messages about class politics - rich versus poor, left versus right. It is great drama, with some funny and steamy moments. The DVD includes a booklet with information about the film and Visconti, as well as special features which include an interview with film critic Alessandro Benccivenni, trailer and more. (Italy, 1974, color, 125 min plus additional materials).

Reviewed on April 4, 2012 by Eric Gonzales for RaroVideo.
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