L a - b e a u t é - s a u v e r a - l e - m o n d e ~ D o s t o ï e v s k i

L a - b e a u t é - s a u v e r a - l e - m o n d e  ~  D o s t o ï e v s k i



Saturday, February 1, 2014

Visconti/Delon



Luchino Visconti di Modrone, Count of Lonate Pozzolo (November 2, 1906, Milan – March 17, 1976, Rome), Italian directer of theatre, opera, and film.  Born into an ancient, aristocratic Milanese family, in the 1940s, along with De Sica and Rossellini, he was an instigator of the Neorealist movement in Italian cinema; later, his film work transitioned to a very personal and romantic historicism.  His best known films are Ossessione, Senso, Rocco and his Brothers, The Leopard, and Death in Venice.

Alain Fabien Maurice Marcel Delon (born November 8, 1935, Sceaux), French actor who began his film career in the late 1950s.  Some of his best known films are Rocco and his Brothers, Plein Soleil (Purple Noon), The Leopard, Le Samouraï, Le Cercle rouge, and Monsieur Klein.

During the filming of Rocco and his Brothers:
With Annie Girardot.

Visconti and Delon worked together three times, and Delon credits Visconti with being one of the most important influences on his acting career.  Visconti starred him in Rocco and his Brothers which, along with Plein Soleil, also from 1960, made Delon a star.  And he was the personification of Lampedusa's glamorous and shallow Tancredi in Visconti's masterpiece, The Leopard, made three years later.  In between, Visconti directed Delon and his then fiancée, Romy Schneider, in a 1961 Paris stage production of Jacobean playwright John Ford's 'Tis Pity She's a Whore (Dommage qu'elle soit une putain, in French).

During the production of Dommage qu'elle soit une putain:
With Romy Schneider and Delon and Schnieder's mothers.

But their relationship was so much more than that.  Visconti was mentor and father figure, Delon was devoted student and admiring son.  Visconti gave Delon a very rare education, an aristocrat exposing the young man to a world he'd never experienced.  He lavished attention on him - and on the women in his life, as well.  He nurtured Delon's talent, giving him the confidence as an actor to go forward into the career he's subsequently built.  But it was more than that, too.  Was Visconti in love with Delon?  I believe he was.  With that very complex love an older homosexual man will often have for a younger heterosexual one.  Visconti had seen everything of the world, had a profound knowledge of the all the arts and the most refined sensibilities.  And then to meet this remarkable young man, unformed but possessing great energy and intelligent receptiveness and, of course, an astounding physical beauty.  Visconti had several long, important relationships (often with artistic collaborators) - the photographer Horst, Franco Zeffirelli, Helmut Berger - but sometimes the love that cannot be consummated is the strongest, most compelling one. 

During the filming of The Leopard:
With Claudia Cardinale.
With Claudia Cardinale.

There is no way to go back fifty-some years and know the minds and hearts of these two as they were then.  But there is an artistic/romantic archetype that can be imagined:  There is a young man just coming into himself, shedding his dull, confused life.  Listening, watching carefully.  Beginning to know that he is much more than he thought he was; he can see it in the regard of others.  And there is an older man who's seen this all before; he was once a version - less free, less innocent - of this young man.  This older man who is filled with longing - perhaps the purest sort of love - for something that is unattainable.  (The same quality of longing that is present in so much of Visconti's later work, like Death in Venice.)  He longs for, is filled with love for this manifestation of youth and energy and beauty, because he knows how quickly it fades and never comes back.





4 comments:

  1. I wish I knew more about Delon's feelings for Visconti. The latter wrote Rocco specially with Delon in mind. He would not have made the film had Delon been not available or willing to play in it. I think it is Visconti's outpouring of love for Delon, and it's beautiful. I just hope Delon recognised it.

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    1. I'm sure that Delon recognized it. But I don't think Delon was/is the type of personality to ever fully acknowledge Visconti's feelings, or to process his own toward the director. And I don't expect he would ever speak or write about it if he could; it would be a wonderful thing if he did, though.

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  2. Precious, wonderful pictures you've got. Forgot to say thanks, and how much I enjoyed them.

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