As Martin Scorsese notes in My Voyage to Italy, no 20th Century film-maker can lay claim to the unique disposition of Count Don Luchino Visconti di Modrone, the final heir to one of Europe’s oldest aristocratic families. For much of his youth, Visconti exulted in the privileges of his lifestyle. His house was a frequent retreat for the likes of Arturo Toscanini, Gabrielle d’Annunzio and Giacomo Puccini. His lifelong engagement in theatre and opera was imbibed from an early age along with brief passions such as raising horses and maintaining stables. It wasn’t long before Visconti began questioning the limitations of his lifestyle. Inspired by his intellectual yearnings, Visconti wandered away from his comfortable shelter and visited Paris. This would be a turning point in his life. Through his friendship with Coco Chanel, Visconti met French director Jean Renoir. He served as assistant director on some of Renoir’s best films from the 30s, including Toni, Partie de campagne and The Lower… read more
Great mix of Italian neo-realism & American pulp. Its interesting to see the Italian directors who are known for later more stylized films work in the neo-realist style in their early work (Visconti &this film, Pasolini &MAMA ROMA, Antonioni &IL GRIDO). The films are neo-realist but not as "purely" as, say... BICYCLE THIEF because theres always an undercurrent of their later style sneaking out somewhere.
Indirectly we have Jean Renoir to thank for Visconti's debut masterpiece as it was the French director who gifted his Italian counterpart a copy of Cain's crime novel and sparked an interest to turn it into a film. Girotti and Calamai as the lovers share a sheer physical chemistry that is fierce in its intensity in a brilliant film that can arguably be described as the missing link between film noir and neo-realism..