(director/writer: Luchino Visconti; screenwriters: Suso Cecchi D’Amico/Enrico Medioli/based on a novel by Gabriele d’Annunzio; cinematographer: Psqualino De Santis; editor: Ruggero Mastroianni; music: Franco Mannino; cast: Giancarlo Giannini (Tullio Hermil), Laura Antonelli (Giuliana), Jennifer O’Neill (Teresa Raffo), Rina Morelli (Tullio’s mother), Massimo Gorotti (Count Stefano Egano), Didier Haudepin (Fererico Hermil), Marie Dubois (The Princess), Roberta Paladini (Miss Elviretta), Claude Mann (The Prince), Marc Porel (Filippo D’Arborio); Runtime: 127; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Giovanni Bertolucci; Koch Lorber; 1976-Italy-in Italian with English subtitles)

The swan song film for veteran Italian filmmaker Luchino Visconti.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The swan song film for veteran Italian filmmaker Luchino Visconti (“The Damned”/”The Leopard”/”Death in Venice”), directed when he was ill and who died upon its release, is a return to form for the aristocratic director after several recent disappointments. It’s faithful to the controversial 1892 novel by Gabriele d’Annunzio, who flirted with Fascism when it arose in its early stages, and is co-written by Visconti, Suso Cecchi D’Amico and Enrico Medioli. The lush and well-realized melodrama is set in the Rome countryside in the 1890s among the aristocrats. It studies the manners and mores of the elites, as it follows Visconti’s usual agenda of the decline of the Italian aristocrats during that time frame and how that was consequential for future generations. This marvelous tragic pic, a film about sexual double standards, was the inspiration behind Scorsese’s The Age of Innocence.

The arrogant jaded man of leisure, Sicilian aristocrat Tullio Hermil (Giancarlo Giannini), is bored with his attractive wife Giuliana (Laura Antonelli ), and chases after the flighty wealthy widow Countess Teresa Raffo (Jennifer O’Neill) in full sight of his society friends. Tullio embarrasses his wife by walking out with his mistress widow during a Liszt concert in the mansion of the Princess (Marie Dubois). When Tullio is informed that his wife has taken as a lover the popular young author Filippo D’Arborio (Marc Porel), he can’t handle it and becomes a tormented madman. Tragedy mounts with the death of Giuliana’s illegitimate child, and Tullio’s life being viewed as an empty hedonistic egotistical one without regard for others.

The well-acted (especially by Antonelli), elegant and restrained film is a sumptuous work that has great sets, a good eye for period detail and colorful costumes.