Goings On

Journeys to Italy with Visconti and Antonioni

Claudia Cardinale in Luchino Visconti’s The Leopard (1963)

This is a fine summer for revisiting some of cinema’s grand old masters. Last week, we took a look at some of the season’s highlights in the ongoing yearlong celebration of Ingmar Bergman’s centenary. Now already underway or opening soon are retrospectives of work by two Italian giants, Luchino Visconti and Michelangelo Antonioni. Born in northern Italy just six years apart, Visconti in 1906 and Antonioni in 1912, both directors would work at some point early in their careers with Roberto Rossellini—and both would break away from the neorealism Rossellini represented, but then head off in entirely different directions.

So different, in fact, that it’s odd to think of the two men as contemporaries. Visconti, raised in an aristocratic family (his father was Giuseppe Visconti di Modrone, Duke of Grazzano Visconti and Count of Lonate Pozzolo), would join the Communist Party, direct a classic of Italian neorealism, Obsession (1943), a film about the exploitation of Sicilian fisherman, La terra trema (1948), and a story centering on a working-class mother in Rome (played by the great Anna Magnani), Bellissima (1951), before making the first of his lushly operatic historical dramas, Senso (1954).

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