Wednesday, October 26, 2011


Luchino Visconti is the Italian visionary whose comprehensive creativity lent itself to the masterly direction of film, theater, and opera. He was born Luchino Visconti di Modrone, Count of Lonate Pozzolo, into a wealthy, noble family on November 2, 1906 in Milan, Italy. His father held two noble titles: Duke of Grazzano and Count of Lonate Pozzolo and the family was known throughout Italy as among the most financially powerful. Wealth and status allowed Visconti an envious exposure to art and theater. He frequented opera houses, theaters, and was personally acquainted with Giacomo Puccini, Arturo Toscanini, and writer Gabriele d'Annunzio.

Visconti's exposure to the arts inspired a strong passion that lasted a lifetime. The openness of ideas and creativity, gave him the unusual permission - and privilege - of being uniquely himself. During the second World War, he joined the Communist party and was never closeted about his homosexuality.

A mutual friend, Coco Chanel, put the young artist in contact with Jean Renoir, who happened to be filming Toni (1936). Renoir hired Visconti as an assistant director and so his fascination with the movies began. Visconti travelled to the United States, staying for a long while in Hollywood, where he gained more exposure to the film industry as a whole. Upon his return to italy, he continued working with Renoir to develop his skills. At this time, he also collaborated with such greats as Roberto Rossellini and Federico Fellini.

In 1943 he wrote his first screenplay, Ossessione - a collaboration with Puccini, Antonio Pietrangeli, and Giuseppe de Santis, which he directed. "Obsession" was the first Italian neorealist film. In 1948 he adapted the novel Malavoglia into the film La Terra Trema, met with rave reviews. Visconti continued in the neorealist vein well into the 1950s, until he made Senso. Senso marked the beginning of a new creative freedom that combined realist and romantic styles. Critics were reluctant to accept this left-turn in Visconti's style, but were favorable in their reviews. As Visconti entered the 1960s and 70s, his films became exceedingly more personal. He re-visited his original neorealist themes and created some of his most famous work, including The Leopard, and  Death in Venice. 

Death in Venice (1971)

During his years as a film director, Visconti also staged numerous operas and stage plays. His films were greatly influenced by his work on the stage and, in many ways, are operatic themselves.

In 1969 Visconti received his first Academy Award nomination for Best Screenplay for The Damned.

At 69, he died of a stroke at his home in rome. A museum is dedicated to his work in Ischia, Italy.

The Stranger

La Terra Trema

Death in Venice

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