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Also Known As: Don Luchino Visconti Dimodrone Died: March 17, 1976
Born: November 2, 1906 Cause of Death: influenza and heart disease
Birth Place: Italy Profession: director, costume designer, magazine editor, set designer, assistant director

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Luchino Visconti occupies a unique place in the history of world cinema; he is the most Italian of internationalists, the most operatic of realists, and the most aristocratic of Marxists. Although one of the progenitors of the Italian neorealist movement, Visconti, with his love of spectacle and historical panorama, would seem to have more in common with Orson Welles or even Erich von Stroheim than with Rossellini or De Sica. Directors as diverse as Bertolucci, Scorsese, Coppola and Fassbinder have named him as a major influence.Born to an aristocratic family, Visconti spent the pre-WWII years in Paris, soaking up the intellectual, cultural and political currents of the time. His close association with Jean Renoir led to his decision to become a filmmaker, although he continued throughout his life to devote part of his considerable energies to the theater and opera. An active anti-fascist, he managed to escape persecution by the Mussolini government until the final days of the war. He directed his first film, "Ossessione" (1942) during the war years. An unauthorized adaptation of the James M. Cain novel, "The Postman Always Rings Twice," the film avoided overt political content but was still censored...

Luchino Visconti occupies a unique place in the history of world cinema; he is the most Italian of internationalists, the most operatic of realists, and the most aristocratic of Marxists. Although one of the progenitors of the Italian neorealist movement, Visconti, with his love of spectacle and historical panorama, would seem to have more in common with Orson Welles or even Erich von Stroheim than with Rossellini or De Sica. Directors as diverse as Bertolucci, Scorsese, Coppola and Fassbinder have named him as a major influence.

Born to an aristocratic family, Visconti spent the pre-WWII years in Paris, soaking up the intellectual, cultural and political currents of the time. His close association with Jean Renoir led to his decision to become a filmmaker, although he continued throughout his life to devote part of his considerable energies to the theater and opera. An active anti-fascist, he managed to escape persecution by the Mussolini government until the final days of the war. He directed his first film, "Ossessione" (1942) during the war years. An unauthorized adaptation of the James M. Cain novel, "The Postman Always Rings Twice," the film avoided overt political content but was still censored by the Fascists for "obscenity," perhaps because of its raw and naturalistic portrayal of the lovers' affair.

Immediately after the war, Visconti turned his attention to opera and theater, but in 1948, he made his most overtly Marxist film, the powerful "La Terra Trema," an adaptation of Giovanni Verga's classic novel about life in a poor Sicilian fishing village. In 1951, Visconti changed pace again, with one of his few attempts at satire, "Bellissima," which records the attempts of an indefatigable stage mother, brilliantly played by Anna Magnani, to get her little daughter into the movies.

Another complete turn, this time to the period of the Risorgimento, produced the brilliant "Senso" (1954), a filmic opera of revolution, illicit love and betrayal which even incorporates sections from Verdi's "Il Trovatore." In 1957, Visconti offered a very theatrical version of Dostoevsky's "White Nights," starring Marcello Mastroianni and Maria Schell, and in 1960 he made his final foray into working-class life, "Rocco and His Brothers," a potent domestic tragedy portraying the difficulties encountered by a Sicilian peasant family transplanted because of economic need to the industrial North. Visconti's next film, a haunting, elegiac adaptation of Giuseppe di Lampedusa's novel "The Leopard" (1963), was an account of an aristocratic Sicilian family faced with enormous social changes during the late 19th century. Although awarded the Golden Palm at Cannes, it was severely edited for US audiences and not restored for almost twenty years.

In the unjustly neglected "Sandra" (1965), Visconti deals for the first time with the Italian Resistance, through the story of a wealthy woman haunted by an incestuous relationship with her brother and the knowledge that her mother had betrayed her father, a Jew, to the Nazis. Following an excellent adaptation of Camus' "The Stranger" (1967), Visconti abandoned himself finally to his greatest loves--opera and politics--in "The Damned" (1969), a truly Wagnerian account of the fall of a German industrial family in its capitulation to the evils of Hitler and the SS. Two more "German decadence" films followed: "Death in Venice" (1971), far more Visconti than Thomas Mann, and "Ludwig" (1972), a colorful rendition of the life of the "mad" King Ludwig of Bavaria. The homoeroticism which provocatively tinged even the gay filmmaker's earliest films finally, if not unproblematically, had come to the fore.

Visconti made two final films, "Conversation Piece" (1975), a semi-autobiographical story of an elderly intellectual confounded by a new Italy in which the vulgar materialism of the new bourgeoisie clashes with the sometimes desperate alienation and militancy of radicalized youth, and "L'Innocente" (1976), based on Gabrielle d'Annunzio's novel of upper-class adultery. They reveal signs of his declining powers but still testify to a dedication to art, beauty, social justice and human values that were the motivating forces behind this extraordinary talent.

VIEW THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Filmographyclose complete filmography

DIRECTOR:

1.
  Innocente, L' (1976) Director
2.
  Ossessione (1976) Director
3.
  Conversation Piece (1974) Director
4.
  Ludwig (1972) Director
5.
  Death in Venice (1971) Director
6.
  The Damned (1969) Director
7.
  The Witches (1968) Dir of "The Witch Burned Alive"
8.
  Senso (1968) Director
9.
  The Stranger (1967) Director
10.
  The Witches (1967)

CAST: (feature film)

1.
 La terra trema (1947)
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

:
Early interest in breeding of racehorses for ten years
1926:
Served in Reggimento Savoia Cavalleria
1928:
Debut as stage set designer
:
Moved to Paris; worked for Jean Renoir as costume designer and third assistant director on "Un Partie de Campagne/A Day in the Country" (1936) and "Les Bas-Fonds/The Lower Depths" (1937)
1937:
Made brief, disillusioning visit to Hollywood
:
Joined editorial staff of "Cinema" magazine during WWII
1942:
Film directing debut with "Ossessione" (also co-screenplay)
1945:
Directed first play, Cocteau's "Parenti terrible/Les Parents terribles" in Rome; continued as stage director
1954:
Directed first opera, "La vestale" in Milan
:
As opera director, was credited with development of Maria Callas as a superstar
1976:
Last film, "L'Innocente"
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Notes

"I was impelled toward the cinema by, above all, the need to tell stories of people who were alive, of people living amid things and not of the things themselves. The cinema that interests me is an anthropomorphic cinema. The most humble gestures of man, his bearing, his feelings, and instincts are sufficient to make the things that surround him poetic and alive. The significance of the human being, his presence, is the only thing that could dominate the images. The ambience that it creates and the living presence of its passions give them life and depth. And its momentary absence from the luminous rectangle gives to everything an appearance of dead nature." Visconti (1943).

Companions close complete companion listing

companion:
Helmut Berger. Actor.
companion:
Bjorn Andersen. Actor.

Family close complete family listing

father:
Giuseppe Visconti. Son of the Duke of Modrone.
mother:
Carla Visconti. Daughter of millionaire industrialist; separated from husband in 1921.
nephew:
Eriprando Visconti. Director, screenwriter. Began career as an assistant director on his uncle's "We the Women" (1952); died on May 26, 1995 of pulmonary emphysema.

Bibliography close complete biography

"Visconti: Explorations of Beauty and Decay"

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