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Repertory Picks

Extravagant Visconti at Berkeley

On Saturday evening, as part of the sweeping eleven-week series Luchino Visconti: Cinema of Struggle and Splendor, California’s Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive will present the Italian director’s 1954 epic Senso. Visconti’s fourth film, a Technicolor period piece that’s screening at BAMPFA in a lush new restoration, found the erstwhile neorealist staking claim to more boldly melodramatic territory, unfurling the Risorgimento-era tale of an Italian countess (Alida Valli) who embarks on an ill-starred affair with an Austrian lieutenant (Farley Granger). With the lavishly appointed romance, the director went far over budget and over schedule in pursuit of his extravagant vision, which eventually even bankrupted its backer, Lux Films. Savaged by Italian critics upon its release, and eventually making its way to English-language markets in an inferior, drastically shortened version, the movie has since been accorded its rightful stature. As filmmaker and author Mark Rappaport writes in his liner essay for our edition of Senso, it is here that “Visconti becomes the Visconti we know and are just now learning to appreciate—a perfectionist who could not rest until each detail was in place.”

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