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.
Ravishing in form, Visconti's film celebrates the tragic twilight of the idols as modernity's displaces aristocracy. Its rapacious sexual appetites, legitimized in patriarchal structures, elicit the will-to-power's own self-destruction. Caught in the dualism of a romantic debunking of female romanticism, Tulio puts into action the noble act of suicide, exploded into a visual Valkyrie by Visconti's aesthetic genius.
"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.
The final film from director Luchino Visconti is a tangled web of love, jealousy, and selfishness. While many may love the heady brew, I found it hard to care about any of the central characters, and was therefore rather unaffected by a finale that should have held a lot more power.
3.5 stars. I remember liking L'Innocente" when it first came out. Already a Visconti fan, especially of his "risorgimento" films, I thought this was a beautiful addition to his period movies. The two women are wonderful to observe. I'd forgotten the beauty of Jennifer O'Neill and the sensuality of Laura Antonelli.
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.