★★½ / 35mm / An oddity that skirts being a great film due to its inability to fully embrace its sexually warped implications, instead perusing an incoherent didactic exploration of fascism. At its heart, it is a film about the dread of intrusion, focused on a retired intellectual, a great Lancaster, and his convoluted emotional and sexual reactions to the invasion of his apartment by a ragtag group of eccentrics.
My first Visconti, so I can't prove that the film's hold on me was attributable to genius. Anyway, I'm a sucker for decadence; it could've just as easily been the film's lush aesthetic. Except, gah! (Lancaster's nuanced portrayal of) Il Professore, and that the film seems to emanate from that interiority, conveying, in the midst of that mess of circumstance, a deep subjectivity... No? Maybe? More Visconti's in order.
A film that demands to be read for it's considerable queer subtext, I would suggest that Conversation Piece is an improvement on Death in Venice. The obsession here burrows. Lancaster's Professore has seen a great deal and is not outwardly moved in any great way but what he observes. That he finds himself involved in the manner he finds himself involved happens by virtue of a kind of eddying. A gorgeous movie.
Dialogue-rich, Italian melodrama at its best, this movie is all about subtexts and what lies beneath the surface. Commentaries on old v. young, rich v. poor, a political life v. a turning away from politics, shutting out life v. living it, all at once meshing in this intergenerational tale in the alfresco, colorful home of the Professor. I wish I could watch this again before it expires; it demands multiple viewings.