“Not many directors have had such a total belief in style. Visconti worked through total artifice as a way to the truth.”—Martin Scorsese

Following successful collaborations on retrospectives of Marcello Mastroianni (2017) and Anna Magnani (2016), the Film Society of Lincoln Center and Istituto Luce Cinecittà join forces once again to co-present Visconti, a complete retrospective of Visconti’s feature films, most of them premiering in new restorations and rare imported prints, followed by a weeklong run of a new 35mm print of his 1973 historical masterpiece Ludwig.

Italian nobility, a member of the Italian Communist Party during World War II, openly gay and staunchly Catholic, Luchino Visconti inhabited a complicated, at times paradoxical, role in Italian cinema culture. A leader in the neorealismo movement who also worked with international stars like Burt Lancaster, Helmut Berger, Alain Delon, and Dirk Bogarde, Visconti produced an oeuvre of modest and humane dramas as well as decadent, sprawling historical spectacles. Deftly aware of the subtle and rich means of cinematic expression, he uniquely imposed the narrative customs of opera and the novel onto film, yet remained sharply attuned to the social and political climates of the 20th century.

The retrospective will showcase the full range of Visconti’s oeuvre, from his debut feature Ossessione, widely regarded as the first neorealist film, and memorable contributions to the movement including La Terra trema and Rocco and His Brothers; to masterful literary adaptations Death in Venice and The Stranger; and sumptuous yet skewering portraits of the aristocracy—The Damned, which marked his first Academy Award nomination (for screenwriting); The Leopard, his tour de force Palme d’Or-winning epic; and his final film, The Innocent.


A special highlight is
Ludwig, which follows the life of Bavaria’s controversial King Ludwig II. “One of Visconti’s most ambitious films…with moments of sublime beauty” (Bilge Ebiri, LA Weekly), it was drastically cut for its U.S. theatrical release. On the occasion of a new restoration and this retrospective, the Film Society is pleased to present Ludwig in the original director’s cut, screening for one week in a brand new 35mm print.

After originating at the Harvard Film Archive (Cambridge, MA) in May, the series will continue on in variations to tour North America. Visconti’s films will screen at the Film Society of Lincoln Center (New York, NY), TIFF (Toronto, ON), Bampfa (Berkeley, CA), National Gallery of Art (Washington, D.C.), MFAH (Houston, TX), and The Gene Siskel Film Center (Chicago, IL).

Tickets for Open Roads: New Italian Cinema and the Visconti retrospective go on sale May 18, with Film Society members receiving an early access period beginning May 15. Become a member today! Tickets are $15; $12 for students, seniors (62+), and persons with disabilities; and $10 for Film Society members. See more and save with the 3+ film discount package or Visconti Access Pass. Learn more at filmlinc.org.

Organized by Florence Almozini and Dan Sullivan of Film Society of Lincoln Center, and by Camilla Cormanni and Paola Ruggiero of Istituto Luce Cinecittà. Co-produced by Istituto Luce Cinecittà, Rome. Presented in association with the Ministry of Culture of Italy.

Acknowledgments: Istituto Luce Cinecittà


All screenings held at the Walter Reade Theater (165 West 65th Street) unless otherwise noted.

Italy/France/West Germany, 1973, 35mm, 232m
Italian, German, and French with English subtitles
Visconti’s remarkable film about the life and death of Bavaria’s King Ludwig II is an opulent, complex study of romantic ambition in the era of 19th century decadence. Helmut Berger plays the title role as a loner tormented by unrequited love for his cousin, Empress Elisabeth of Austria (Romy Schneider), an obsession with the music of Richard Wagner, and excessive state-funded expenditures. Visconti’s lavishly composed portrait of one of history’s most complicated figures is as much an operatic descent into madness as a requiem to a monarch at the dawn of the modern republican world. An AGFA release. New 35mm print made by Luce Cinecittà. Saturday, June 16, 1:30pm
Friday, June 22 – Thursday, June 28, 2:00pm & 6:45pm


Italy, 1951, 35mm, 114m
Italian with English subtitles
Visconti deftly blends showbiz satire with heart-tugging pathos in this neorealist melodrama. When Cinecittà Studios puts out a casting call for a new child actress, they’re flooded with starry-eyed stage mothers and their talentless tots, among them Anna Magnani’s working-class Roman nurse and her rather indifferent daughter, whom she’s driven to make a star. As in similar Hollywood-plays-itself melodramas such as Sunset Boulevard and The Bad and the Beautiful, Bellissima both romanticizes the power of celluloid dreams and delivers a cuttingly cynical takedown of the industry. Magnani’s affecting performance as a mother whose desperation for success is outweighed only by her love for her child helps the film achieve true poignancy. 35mm print from Istituto Luce Cinecittà.
Sunday, June 10, 3:30pm
Monday, June 11, 9:15pm  

Conversation Piece / Gruppo di famiglia in un interno
Italy/France, 1974, 35mm, 121m
English and Italian with English subtitles
Visconti reunited with The Leopard star Burt Lancaster for this profoundly personal, contemporary chamber study. Once again the actor is cast as an emblem of Old World honor passing into obsolescence, here a retired professor living out a quiet retirement in his art-stuffed Roman palazzo; his dignified solitude is drastically upended by a turbulent marchesa (a serpentine Silvana Mangano) and her bisexual boy toy (Helmut Berger) who insinuate themselves into his life. Visconti masterfully interweaves a provocative shuffling of ideas—on class, sex, art, fascism—in what is ultimately his own disquieting confrontation with mortality. 35mm print from Istituto Luce Cinecittà.
Friday, June 15, 9:30pm
Monday, June 18, 6:30pm

The Damned / La caduta degli dei (Götterdämmerung)
Italy/West Germany, 1969, 156m
English and German with English subtitles
The Damned chronicles the downfall of the Essenbecks, a wealthy German family (led by Dirk Bogarde and Ingrid Thulin) with business ties to the Nazis. Visconti’s symphony of decadence is perhaps best remembered for Helmut Berger’s indelible turn as depraved son Martin, vamping in drag as Marlene Dietrich from The Blue Angel. Kinky and perverse (the film was rated X upon initial release), Visconti’s epic features a score by Maurice Jarre (Lawrence of Arabia) and a stylistic opulence that led Rainer Werner Fassbinder to name it as one of his ten favorite films. Restored by Cineteca di Bologna and Institut Lumiere (Lyon).
Saturday, June 16, 8:30pm
Sunday, June 17, 4:45pm

The Damned

Death in Venice / Morte a Venezia
Italy/France/USA, 1971, 130m
English, Italian, Polish, French, Russian, and German with English subtitles
Opening with the otherworldly image of a steamship emerging ghostlike from inky blackness and closing with one of the most transcendent denouements in all of cinema, Visconti’s exquisite adaptation of Thomas Mann’s novella is a piercing meditation on mortality, sexuality, beauty, and the longing for youth. In a career-capping performance of tragic vulnerability, Dirk Bogarde plays gravely ill composer Aschenbach, who, while on a rest cure in Venice, is spellbound by an angelic teenage boy (Björn Andrésen)—an infatuation that escalates as pestilence consumes the city. Visconti’s painterly compositions enter the realm of the sublime thanks to the tension-swelling, never-resolving strains of Mahler’s Fifth Symphony. Restored by Cineteca di Bologna, Istituto Luce Cinecittà.
Friday, June 8, 7:30pm
Sunday, June 17, 8:00pm

The Innocent / L’innocente
Italy/France, 1976, 35mm, 129m
Italian with English subtitles
In his final film, Visconti offers one of his most cutting variations on the theme that most consumed him: the moral decay of the soul-sick aristocracy. Based on a novel by the proto-fascist sensualist Gabriele d’Annunzio, this poison-pill melodrama concerns a callously self-absorbed nobleman (Giancarlo Giannini) whose “liberal” views on marriage extend only as far as his own extramarital affairs. When his tormented wife (Laura Antonelli) pursues a dalliance with a writer, the full monstrousness of his chauvinism is unleashed. Working with a late-career rigorousness, Visconti returns one last time to the luxuriant, red velvet world of the 19th century, stripping away operatic excess in favor of a supremely controlled emotional intensity. 35mm print from Istituto Luce Cinecittà.
Saturday, June 16, 6:00pm
Monday, June 18, 9:00pm

The Leopard / Il gattopardo
Italy/France, 1963, 186m
Italian, Latin, and French with English subtitles
Visconti reached new heights of epic grandeur with his sweeping, Palme d’Or-winning account of political upheaval and generational sea change in Risorgimento-era Italy. A bewhiskered Burt Lancaster is the leonine patriarch of a ruling class Bourbon family in the last gasps of its dominance as Garibaldi and his redshirts upend social order and a new spirit ascends—embodied by beautiful people Alain Delon and Claudia Cardinale. With fastidious attention to period detail, Visconti evokes a gilded world fading into oblivion, his camera gliding over baroque palazzos, magnificent banquets, and ornate ceremonies. It all culminates in a majestic, dusk-to-dawn ball sequence that is as poignant as it is breathtaking. Restored in association with Cineteca di Bologna, Pathé, Fondation Jérôme Seydoux-Pathé, Twentieth Century Fox, and CSC-Cineteca Nazionale. Restoration funding by Gucci and The Film Foundation.
Friday, June 15, 6:00pm
Sunday, June 17, 1:00pm

Italy, 1943, 140m
Italian with English subtitles
Considered by many the first neorealist masterpiece, Visconti’s bombshell debut is a sexy, sweaty adaptation of James M. Cain’s novel The Postman Always Rings Twice. The chiseled Massimo Girotti is the penniless drifter who breezes into unhappily married Clara Calamai’s whistle-stop roadhouse, setting the stage for a torrid saga of lust, murder, and betrayal. In blending the sordid source material with an earthy evocation of underclass life, Visconti incurred the wrath of the Fascist censors, who promptly suppressed the film. Among their objections was the homoerotic charge supplied by a character not in Cain’s novel: a gay, communist artist, whom one is tempted to read as a stand-in for the queer, Marxist Visconti. Restored by Istituto Luce Cinecittà, CSC-Cineteca Nazionale and VIGGO.
Saturday, June 9, 5:15pm
Wednesday, June 13, 6:30pm

Rocco and His Brothers / Rocco e i suoi fratelli
Italy/France, 1960, 177m
Italian with English subtitles
Visconti’s rich and expansive masterpiece has an emotional intensity and tragic grandeur matched by few other films. The director turned to Giovanni Testori, Thomas Mann, Dostoevsky, and Arthur Miller for inspiration, achieving a truly epic sweep for this story of a mother and her grown sons who head north from Lucania in search of work and new lives. In one beautifully realized scene after another, we observe a tightly knit family coming apart, one frayed thread at a time. Alain Delon is Rocco, Renato Salvatori is his brother Simone, Annie Girardot is the woman who comes between them, and Katina Paxinou is matriarch Rosaria. One of the defining films of its era, Rocco and His Brothers has been beautifully restored, and Giuseppe Rotunno’s black and white images are as pearly and lustrous today as they were always meant to be. Restored by Cineteca di Bologna in association with Titanus, TF1 Droits Audiovisuels and The Film Foundation. Restoration funding by Gucci and The Film Foundation.
Friday, June 8, 1:30pm
Saturday, June 9, 8:00pm

Sandra / Vaghe stelle dell’Orsa…
Italy, 1965, 105m
Italian with English subtitles
Shady family secrets, incestuous siblings, descents into madness, decades-old conspiracies . . .  With Sandra, Visconti traded The Leopard’s elegiac grandeur for something grittier and pulpier—the Electra myth in the form of a gothic melodrama. Claudia Cardinale’s title character returns to her ancestral home in Tuscany and has an unexpected encounter with her long-lost brother and a reckoning with her family’s dark wartime past. Shooting in a decaying mansion set amidst a landscape of ruins, Visconti came upon the great theme he would return to in his late career: the slow death of an aristocracy rooted in classical ideals but long since hollowed out by decadence and corruption.
Sunday, June 10, 5:45pm
Friday, June 15, 3:45pm

Italy, 1954, 35mm, 128m
Italian and German with English subtitles
Set amidst Italy’s struggle for unification, Visconti’s operatic melodrama is a key link between the neorealist grit of his early work and the increasingly grand-scale historical spectacles to come. The Third Man’s Alida Valli plays a tremulous 19th-century Venetian countess torn between loyalty to her country and a dissolute Austrian officer (Hollywood beauty Farley Granger). As much an aesthete as a political radical, Visconti luxuriates in the aristocratic period trappings—a Technicolor feast of sumptuous gold, lavender, scarlet, and emerald jewel tones—while casting a jaundiced eye on Italian history, class, and nationalism. 35mm print from Istituto Luce Cinecittà.
Tuesday, June 12, 6:30pm


The Stranger

The Stranger / Lo straniero
Italy/France/Algeria, 1967, 35mm, 104m
French and Italian with English subtitles
Visconti brilliantly translates Albert Camus’s landmark work of existential humanism to the screen in this shattering adaptation. Marcello Mastroianni is (perhaps unexpectedly) perfectly cast as the alienated atheist Meursault, who, due to a series of seemingly random events, shoots an Arab man on an Algerian beach and finds himself on trial for murder. The cosmic absurdity of Camus’s vision is delivered with a gut-punch by Visconti and Mastroianni in a stunning final scene that stands as one of the actor’s greatest moments. Long unavailable (and never released on DVD), The Stranger deserves to be rediscovered for its singular, haunting power. 35mm print from Istituto Luce Cinecittà.
Friday, June 8, 5:00pm
Tuesday, June 12, 9:00pm

La Terra trema
Italy, 1948, 160m
Italian with English subtitles
In Visconti’s Sicilian masterpiece, a fisherman’s budding leadership of the local labor force threatens the price-fixing schemes of wholesalers all too willing to put down an incipient rebellion. Based on a classic novel by Giovanni Verga, La Terra trema was one of the most formally daring of all neorealist works, establishing the template for dozens of later films that would examine the emergence of political consciousness. The many extraordinary sequences are played out by a cast of actual fishermen, who are, to critic André Bazin, filmed as though “Renaissance princes.” Digital restoration from Istituto Luce Cinecittà.
Saturday, June 9, 2:00pm
Monday, June 11, 6:00pm

White Nights / Le notti bianche
Italy/France, 1957, 35mm, 101m
Italian with English subtitles
Visconti’s adaptation of a classic short story by Dostoevsky is a ravishing romantic reverie in incandescent black and white. Marcello Mastroianni is the lonely flâneur who meets and falls in love with a fragile young woman (Maria Schell) amidst the fog-shrouded night world of the Tuscan canal city of Livorno. The resulting tale of all-consuming love and loss is a swooning dream vision elevated to the nearly operatic by Visconti’s rapturously stylized direction. 35mm print from Istituto Luce Cinecittà.
Sunday, June 10, 8:00pm
Wednesday, June 13, 9:15pm

White Nights


Shorts Program: 1953-67
Visconti directs Anna Magnani, Romy Schneider, and Silvana Mangano in this potent trio of offbeat, often comic shorts drawn from omnibus films We, the Women; Boccaccio ’70; and The Witches. TRT: 114m

Anna Magnani
Italy, 1953, 21m
Italian with English subtitles
In this segment from the marvelously offbeat portmanteau film We, the Women, superstar actress Anna Magnani protests a taxi fare surcharge for traveling with her dachshund, spiraling into a comic melee involving half of Rome’s police officers. Digital restoration from Istituto Luce Cinecittà.

The Job / Il lavoro (from Boccaccio ’70)
Italy, 1962, 35mm, 55m
Italian and German with English subtitles
Between Rocco and His Brothers and The Leopard, Visconti contributed to Boccaccio ’70, an anthology comedy inspired by the irreverent spirit of the Decameron author. His segment plays like a sophisticated deconstruction of the battle-of-the-sexes bedroom farce, featuring an effervescent Romy Schneider as an idle, rich heiress putting the screws on philandering husband Tomas Milian when one of his escapades winds up in the scandal sheet. It’s all fun and games—until it’s not. 35mm print from Istituto Luce Cinecittà.

The Witch Burned Alive / La strega bruciata viva
Italy/France, 1967, 35mm, 37m
Italian with English subtitles
Visconti’s contribution to Dino De Laurentiis’s omnibus curio The Witches is an enigmatic, unsettling dissection of celebrity, beauty, and artifice. A divinely helmet-haired Silvana Mangano plays a nerve-shattered movie star who retreats to an Alpine chalet for some much-needed peace—only to become embroiled in the emotional and sexual gamesmanship of a coterie of upper-crust vultures. Look out for Visconti’s soon-to-be muse and lover Helmut Berger in his debut.
Sunday, June 10, 1:00pm
Friday, June 15, 1:15pm