• Maddalena... zero in condotta

    Maddalena... zero in condotta

    ★★

    During my undergrad I studied the "white telephone era" and its predecessor relationship with Italian neorealism, but I never got around to actually watching a film from this period till yesterday. Kinda cool to finally be catching up with something I studied in books well over 10 years ago, though I will say the history of these films fascinates me more than the films themselves. 

    De Sica's early work springs from this glamorous era (1930s–1940s), a period when Vittorio Mussolini,…

  • The Innocent

    The Innocent

    ★★★★½

    Wow. I mean, emphatically, wow. Just when I thought Visconti was on his downward slope ready to fade out like a candle, he returns to form in a career high pulverizer that left me picking my stomach from off the floor. A stunning, hard-hitting, operatic finale to an awesome body of work, led by a character I absolutely despised and will consider to be the most hated in his filmography next to Martin von Essenbeck. For his dark-hearted swan song,…

  • The Lad Goodbye

    The Lad Goodbye

    In the immortal words of Brendo Stanton (who I’m still 200% confident is Nolan O’Kane in drag), I’m gonna be sentimental and real with you boys. That was beautiful. That was kush. That was as weird as Danny DeVito’s Penguin watching me drain myself in the men’s restroom. Got choked up a few times. Hits different when you consider these boys your brothers. If all men had the masculine bond of Bart and Lester, men would be healthier, freer, happier.…

  • Conversation Piece

    Conversation Piece

    ★★

    When you just wanna chill in your opulent mansion and collect art but the uppity, overdressed socialites won’t leave you alone. Visconti replaces Buñuel’s surreal dinner guests with a pack of obnoxious aristocrats who invade Burt Lancaster’s privacy, shatter his solitude, and begin remodeling his home as though they were on an episode of Fixer Upper. The invaders aren’t as chaotic as Buñuel or Aronofsky imagined them to be, but they are annoyingly bad-mannered and parasitically disruptive to the interior…

  • Ludwig

    Ludwig

    ★★★½

    With THE DAMNED, Visconti threw caution to the winds and exorcised every ugly thing within his soul after decades of being forced to conceal and repress what could not be named under fascist rule. It’s one of the most self-contradictory films I’ve ever seen, one that is so recklessly malevolent and over the top that it ends up self-destructing in the process. With DEATH IN VENICE, the director sorta back peddles into hiding and obscures his intentions with a provocative…

  • Death in Venice

    Death in Venice

    ★★★★½

    If you had no awareness of the Thomas Mann novella, no knowledge of Visconti’s homosexuality, DEATH IN VENICE might display a pretty entrancing Kuleshov effect. Which is to say that so much of this near-silent film is visually communicated and provocatively edited without really telling you what’s going on, thereby establishing limits to the kind of relationship we’re watching and even richer ambiguity as to what it means. After reading many reviews, I know I’m supposed to infer exactly what…

  • Crimes of the Future

    Crimes of the Future

    ★★★★½

    "Surgery is the new sex" is another way of saying the body cannot resist technological evolution. Our bodies are weak, frail and subject to all types of pain, but we continually seek ways to treat diseases, heal injuries, and mitigate pain at all costs, almost with carnal demand. Medical science is the art in which we attempt to slow human entropy and remedy our biology to an accelerated state of health and equilibrium. Surgery is a fact of life and…

  • The Damned

    The Damned

    ★★★★½

    I’ve been intimidated to analyze the coded queerness concealed within Visconti’s body of work, but I’m aware of the subtext and feel he went great lengths to disguise it due to the homophobia of his Italian culture. I’ve been hesitant to even mention this at all in my reviews because I don’t think Visconti’s sexual orientation holds any relevance to the quality or meaning of his work. However, I have to say, after limping away from this totally bizarre and…

  • Howard the Duck

    Howard the Duck

    Made a mistake tonight and tampered with my childhood. In my defense, I've recently been introducing my son to a lot of the films I grew up on and thought it might be fun to revisit an old crime scene. What's amazing is that I kept waiting to be reminded what I originally loved about it as a kid, but alas, that moment never arrived. I didn't even recall 95% of it. I've been wandering this earth for almost 40…

  • The Stranger

    The Stranger

    ★★

    Surprising that an operatic realist like Visconti —an artist who wrestled with his own romantic sensibility —would be interested in adapting a philosophical work that is so cold, detached, and passionless. This honestly feels better suited for Bresson, a story that intentionally shows little to no emotion, is withdrawn from its characters, and starkly meditates on the suffering and alienation of the human condition. It's not that Visconti does Camus wrong, it's that Camus doesn't always translate well to the screen. The…

  • Sandra

    Sandra

    ★★½

    Sandra and Andrew journey from Geneva to Volterra in a disintegrating wind, away from the modern present into the historical past. The past is a ghost with many mysterious layers and tensions. Andrew doesn't have a past, but Sandra has enough to fill a dying mansion. They are lovers on a journey into the crumbling ruins of her childhood town, the place where they will bury her father and learn more about his cryptic death. Andrew is the outsider to…

  • Rocco and His Brothers

    Rocco and His Brothers

    ★★★★★

    At the end of LA TERRA TREMA, the proletariat is seen rowing out to sea after a colossally failed effort to conquer the owners of the Sicilian fishing industry. Ntoni had taken great pains to rally the peasantry, to secure the means of production, and to give his family a new life on the ancestral land, but by the end of the film he has lost everything and is swallowed back up in the earth’s trembling. He has learned that…