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Showing 1-10 of 29 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 47 reviews
HALL OF FAMEon May 22, 2011
Criterion has made lots of people very happy with this comprehensive release of Luchino Visconti's 1954 masterpiece SENSO. Loosely based on Camillo Boito's novella of the same name, SENSO is the story of a doomed love affair, set during the turmoil of Austria-occupied Italy in 1866.

During a performance of "Il trovatore" at La Fenice, the Countess Livia (Alida Valli) meets Austrian officer Franz Mahler (Farley Granger). The two fall into a torrid love affair, which is made all the more scandalous because of their individual loyalties. When Franz begs Livia to give him the money he needs in order to bribe certain officials and exit the army, Livia reluctantly hands over the Italian partisan funds that were entrusted to her by her cousin, exiled because of his actions in trying to undermine the Austrian army. When she later receives a rather strange letter from Franz, Livia follows him back to Verona, where her ever-crumbling sanity reaches the breaking point...

SENSO is a delicate piece which borders on the operatic. It's not by coincidence that shortly after this film, Luchino Visconti became one of the most prolific opera directors in Europe. Leading actors Alida Valli and Farley Granger both deliver superb performances, but the star of SENSO is undoubtedly the bewitching Ms Valli, who in her performance as the Countess Livia, is almost an opera heroine in real-life.

Lush in it's design and photography, it's strange to think that SENSO sadly didn't make much of an impression during it's original release in 1954. Critics felt that Luchino Visconti was "betraying" his neo-realist attitudes, not quite realising that in SENSO he beautifully blended neo-realism with theatrical grandeur, therefore creating a whole new genre of filmmaking.

Criterion's two-disc DVD package includes the seldom-seen English language dub of SENSO entitled "The Wanton Countess", which is significantly shorter than the original Italian cut. The English dub is noteworthy in that both Farley Granger and Alida Valli's voices can finally be heard. The print of "The Wanton Countess", supplied by Harvard University, isn't in the best shape, with lots of jumps and splices; Aldo Graziati's colour photography is dulled considerably with the film sadly looking like it's been soaked in brown tea. Rest assured that the original Italian cut of SENSO looks crisp and beautiful by comparison.
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on February 17, 2016
I had never seen this film - I was born and grew up in Puerto Rico and, when it was released I was a child - ; we had no "revival" movie theaters then. Since I've made my home in this country since '75, I've no idea who things may be there now. I'm glad I purchased it. Many think it's minor Visconti; I am not among them. Visconti, though Milanese, adored Venice (as I do). He deliberately chose to begin the film at La Fenice it was not a frivolous decision. When I visited Venice in 2004 La Fenice had burned down so, there was nothing to see there; I happen to have a "knack" for being allowed into buildings that are being restored. To become concrete, were this minor Visconti, why would have Criterion bothered to restore it lovingly?
It arrived timely and is new, as described by the seller. I urge all film lovers to purchase it.
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on January 25, 2017
Visconti loved to have beautiful women in his films and make them look even more beautiful and so he does with Alida Valli. The color is brilliant and enlivens every scene. The anti-hero, Farley Granger, is at his most handsome...I'm sure Visconti had his eyes on him. Massimo Girotti, probably the most handsome man in film for all time, plays the uncle of Valli. He's aged but still handsome. Valli's degradation is a terrible thing to behold. Visconti sometimes seemed to like degrading women in his films. If you remember the rape scene of Annie Giradot in Rocco and his Brothers you'll know what I mean. The story was written by Camillo Boito, brother of the great librettist and composer Ettore Boito.
In his memoirs, Granger talks about his having his way with every man or woman who played with him in his many films. He was one actor who had to go to Europe when it was discovered he was gay. His conceit is not attractive. Character means something after all.
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on December 28, 2010
December 28, 2010
Amazon should not use these six reviews posted as of today in conjunction with the Criterion Collection DVD to be released on Feb. 22, 2011.
It is misleading and unfair to the new issue that among other things includes the missing seven minutes opening sequence.
At least they should make clear to the customers that these six reviews apply to the Korean import ONLY!
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on December 30, 2012
Senso - a film so famous that a remake in 2011 and an opera were made to dwell on its undying glory. As always with the most notorious movies, there is an enigma to what exactly make them live and shine, outlive all who have done it and still gain new worshipers. We can at least try to analyze what makes it a cult and golden calf around which there is such a constant dance macabre.

It is interesting to research about the literary source of the film, a novella "Senso" by Camillo Boito (a man, just as the author of Anna Karenina and Madame Bovary), written in 1882. In the book, the character of Livia is one of a lustful, selfish and revengeful female who watches the execution of her lover with the same delight as she experienced in his arms. It seems to be obvious that Visconti was inspired by a theme of a predatory female destroying a vulnerable, fragile male who desperately tries to fight for his life in society but is finished off by an axe lowered by the lecherous, furious and vengeful Bacchante.

This idea gains force in Visconti's later movies, starting with "Death in Venice" in the threatening figure of the watchful mother, and continuing with crescendo from "Ludwig" through " Conversation Piece" to "L'Innocente", where the destructive female appears in all her horror, equipped with the flawless physical beauty which she uses as weapon to drive the poor man to his ruin.

In a sense, "Senso" has shoots of many other obsessions that Visconti expressed later on in the aforementioned films - here we have a hero renamed from the original name in the novel of Remigio Ruz to Franz Mahler, in honor of the composer whose music Visconti adored and used to much acclaim in "Death in Venice". And it is these obsessions that distinguish his work and turn it into cult status.

The obsessive attention to detail resulting in incomparable beauty of cinematography, camera work, leading actor, costumes, decorations, of the places where the films were made, his drive to authenticity and perfection makes his work above compare, and like the pictures of the old masters, more and more valuable as we move further in the Braver Newer World of art.

For all those reasons, I have become a zealot of Visconti decades ago, and I watch his movies, including "Senso", from time to time, as one goes to a museum to delight in a beloved masterpiece. But the reason to finally write a review was an amazing coincidence when visiting Veneto region the last autumn; the goal was to see as many as possible Palladian villas, and what a surprise I had when after arriving in Villa Godi-Malinverni, I learned that "Senso" was filmed there! These were the episodes when Livia leaves Venice for her country villa; and it is in the villa that Franz breaks into her bedroom, alarming dogs and causing the famous uproar. It was curious to observe that the Villa was quite far from Venice - it is between Bassano del Grappa and Vicenza, and in 1882 it would probably take days to reach it!

The Villa is today even more amazing - in the film one can hardly notice the frescoes, and the garden in front in 1954 was not as luxurious as it is now, although in the timeline of the story it was probably even more opulent than today - with roses, camellias and other magical plants that perfume the air in warm September sun...

Visconti has grown up in palaces and villas like Villa Godi-Malinverni; certainly the aristocratic rich friends and relatives of his family had similar properties. This villa is occupied today by a private owner, and the neighboring Villa Poiano is today a country retreat of a certain countess - just like Livia, only that today's countess lives in Milano, not in Venice. Since Visconti was a habitue in such villas and palaces like the one rented in Palermo for "Il Gattopardo" shooting, he knew intimately how to furnish the place and make it look the way it should be. This adds an irreplaceable allure to all his films which exude glamor and elegance.

The story of the film "Senso" is forever captivating, as sex and violence always are. Love, betrayal, hate - all the titillating subjects that entertain humanity. Perhaps I watched this movie so many times that this time I lost some sensitivity to "Senso" the story. But some side observations emerged:

1. The character of Fritz Mahler, presented unsympathetically in 19th century morality as a as coward who does not wish to fight in a war occupies a central place in 20th century as an existentialist figure. His moral dillema of an individual having to sacrifice his life on the altar of the rich and powerful cannot be more modern even today. Ironically, Austria's empire disintegrated shortly after the film's events were taking place, making his doubts and views prophetic.

2. The reunification of Italy - one would ask the same question today as it was asked in Garibaldi's times - was it such a good idea? As of today, it seems clear that the North Italy is a true beneficiary, while the South continues to sink, justly confirming Il Gattopardo's pessimism. Also the theme of Southern migrants has been duly explored in "Rocco and his brothers", revealing rejection of the South by the North. Perhaps the South would indeed fare better if it would be independent from the authority of Turin and Milan. And the WWII destruction of Italy could have been much less severe as Mussolini dragged the whole country into the inferno. Had Italy remained fragmented as it was in middle ages, for example, cities like Treviso or Livorno could have survived intact.

3. After being to numerous cities and towns in Italy, one cannot fail to notice that major roads, streets and squares bear all the same names - Piazza Garibaldi, Corso Cavour, Via Mazzini, etc. We owe this destruction of history to the propaganda of the reunification benefits which with passage of time seem more and more dubious.

Such thoughts were provoked by a film that was supposedly not designed to do so! However, as with any genius work of art, it lives its own life and inspires the viewer to the most unexpected ideas. I also attach some current images of Villa Godi-Malinverni.

This film is simply extraordinary, as the opera "Il Trovatore", city of Venice, Palladian villas, human passions... A must for all times.
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VINE VOICEon July 13, 2006
I have rated this film 4 only because of it's length, there are some ponderous moments, but otherwise it is a 5.

Italian cinema was still having growing pains from the war, but this epic succeeds, and skillfully incorporates the war torn landscape into this tale of an earlier war. The music score is very big and melodramatic, but fitting. The film opens with an opera in an enormous opera house, and this is fitting for the grand scale and operatic scope of this romance and the background. This is "Gone With the Wind" - Italian style - with a much more sympathetic heroine.

I am a fan of Alida Valli and have sought out her work. Perhaps because this is in her native Italian, and/or because of her Italian director, she is a full, vital, feminine woman in this film; very different from her more restrained work in America. (Her breathtaking performance in "The Paradine Case" is a study in austerity and an almost masculine stillness.) I had hoped that we would see a more free actress in her native language, and we do! She flutters and tosses her hair, she is a Countess reveling in her earthy affair. This is a full bodied performance.

Farley Granger's performance, whether in response to Valli, or just given a really meaty bad-boy to play, is a total revelation. (AND THIS IS FARLEY Granger, the same actor Hitchcock used in "Strangers on a Train" and "Rope.") He is lusty and sexy, provocative, pouty and passionate. In one scene, he greets her by wordlessly grabbing her hand and almost devouring it with kisses. This is a rare film where both the woman AND the man have real powerhouse roles. The confrontation scene at the end is gripping.

A small but pivotal role is played by Marcella Mariani. Her cow-like leadenness, laced with sisterhood, bespeaks a worldliness that, paired with her ethereal youthful beauty is just wrenching. All supporting roles, especially the maids, are interesting and give a sense of intrigue throughout.

There ARE mistakes on the box. As mentioned, this IS Farley Granger, but he is listed on the box as English (he is American), and Alida Valli is listed as French (she is Italian).

The outcome of one major plot point is cut out (apparently by Italian censors of the time) which leaves you wondering... "but what happened with that?" Still, the major story is the romance, which I think will be satisfying for men as well as women, because both sides are given such full emotional life. This is an enjoyable, big emotion, epic wartime romance.
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on March 19, 2014
I've heard of this for eons, but it has been very difficult to see. It occasionally shows up on TCM, but the print always looks horrible. It is always praised as a major Technicolor achievement, so I wanted the best looking version i could get. This is a major improvement, but I fear, still isn't as vivid and dazzling as it probably was in '55 or whenever. It was released in Italy, then re-edited and messed up for American release. This is supposedly the original, complete film, and looking as close to full saturation as is possible. It's impressive, but not up to the best of domestic three strip.

The film itself is an epic tale of a woman's obsession with Farley Granger, a military rake from the enemy camp who seduces and abandons her. It's plenty absurd, but the star power is irresistable. There is a commentary track, and also the American version is included. But after going through the normal film, and the commentary, I didn't want to sit through it again. But I a m sort of looking forward to seeing what it looks like. Apparently, the actual Granger audio track is used here, so we actually hear him rather than the dubbed in Italian version shown in Italy. But it's cut down and supposedly trashed.

Still,, a great package of Criterion excess that is a great wallow in a major world film that still remains somewhat elusive.
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on June 1, 2011
Typically superb package from Criterion for Visconti's peerless Italian classic... Operatic in its melodramatic construction, sumptiously filmed, and vividly acted, it features the director at the height of his powers, which would reach the pinnacle of their achievement in period mode with THE LEOPARD/IL GATTOPARDO... Includes the new restoration of the Italian original, a rarely seen English language version - THE WANTON COUNTESS, and several very salient documentaries as extras, most notably MAN OF THREE WORLDS: LUCHINO VISCONTI from the BBC in 1966...
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on July 1, 2017
I've loved it!
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on January 16, 2010
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