A beautiful final film from the master of ornate-yet-stoic emotions. Visconti is one of the under-appreciated movie geniuses, perhaps because his uniqueness is so old-fashioned. I think he's most fresh precisely when he's most mannered.
It's like a long walk in a museum, the production design being gorgeous. Even if I find the last scene between Giannini and O'Neill too long, the film is, in my opinion, a great introduction to both late XIXth century Italian literature and Visconti filmography. Highly recommended.
At first I disliked it, but I've come to recognize it as Visconti's most brutal and austere film, if not necessarily his best. Something about that final image will always haunt me (I also found it interesting that his last three films all end with freeze frames). Nevertheless, I would rather see "The Rules of the Game" or any number of Bunel films all of which cover similar territory but are more fun to watch.
"If one day I were to judge my existence I wouldn't want to feel ashamed"
A damning delivery to the Nietzschean lead man who feels that neither man nor God can judge him. So he sinks deeper and deeper into this darkly decadent and disturbing tale of fin de siècle haunted desire and obsession leading to insanity. The torpidity only adding to the atmosphere of sultry immorality. Breathtaking mise en scène and music.
With strong acting and production-wise and visually impeccable, Visconti's final film is betrayed by its script. The usually operatic Visconti, here becomes more melodramatic and soapy than truly tragic and existential. There is a layer of latent homoeroticism between Giannini and Porel, which is unfortunately never really examined, although its exploration would have helped to give the script the depth it needed.