The Cheetah (movie)

The Leopard ( Il Gattopardo ) is a movie Franco – Italian directed by Visconti , adapted from the eponymous novel of Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa , released in 1963 .

He received the Palme d’Or at the 1963 Cannes Film Festival .


In after Don Garibaldi ‘s landing in Sicily at Marsala , Don Fabrizio Salina attends with detachment and melancholy at the end of the aristocracy . These aristocrats, the “cheetahs”, understand that the end of their superiority is now close: in fact, those who benefit from the new political situation are the administrators and large landowners of the new social class that is rising. Don Fabrizio, belonging to a family of ancient nobility, is reassured by his favorite nephew Tancred, who, although fighting in the garibaldian columns, tries to turn the events to his advantage. Tancred explains to his uncle:

“If we do not meddle in this affair, they will make us a republic. If we want everything to stay the same, we have to change everything. “

When, as every year, Prince Salina goes with his whole family to his summer residence in Donnafugata, he finds Calogero Sedara, a modest, uneducated and poorly educated bourgeois, as the new mayor of the village. is enriched and has a career in politics. Tancred, who had at first shown a certain interest in Concetta, the eldest daughter of the prince, falls in love with Angelica, Don Calogero’s daughter, whom he will eventually marry, seduced by her beauty but also by her considerable heritage.

The arrival in Donnafugata of a Piedmontese official , Chevalley di Monterzuolo, marks a turning point in the story. He proposes to Don Fabrizio to be appointed Senator of the new Kingdom of Italy . Yet the prince refuses, feeling too tied to the old Sicilian world. A reflection of the Sicilian reality, Don Fabrizio is pessimistic: “Then it will be different, but worse …” , he says to the emissary of the new regime.

The union between the new bourgeoisie and the declining aristocracy is a change that is now indisputable. Don Fabrizio will confirm this during a grandiose ball at the end of which he will begin to meditate on the meaning of the new events and to make the painful assessment of his life.

Technical sheet

  • Original title: Il Gattopardo
  • French title: Le Guépard
  • English title: The Leopard
  • Director: Luchino Visconti
The Filangeri di Cutò palace in Santa Margherita di Belice , summer house of Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa .
  • Scenario and dialogues: Suso Cecchi D’Amico , Pasquale Festa Campanile , Enrico Medioli , Massimo Franciosa and Luchino Visconti , after the novel by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa ; dialogues of the French version René Barjavel
  • Sets: Mario Garbuglia
  • Costumes: Piero Tosi
  • Photography: Giuseppe Rotunno
  • Editing: Mario Serandrei
  • Sound: Mario Messina
  • Music: Nino Rota , as well as arrangements by Giuseppe Verdi’s operas
  • Musical Director: Franco Ferrara
  • Choreography: Alberto Testa  (it)
  • Filming locations: Ariccia ( Lazio ); Ciminna ( Sicily ); Palermo ( Palace Valguarnera-Gangi ); Rome ; Mondello , a frazione of Palermo, ( Sicily )
  • Production: Goffredo Lombardo ; Pietro Notarianni (executive)
  • Production Company: Titanus ( Rome ), Pathé Cinema ( Paris )
  • Distribution Company: Pathé Cinéma
  • Country of origin: Italy , France
  • Language: Italian
  • Genre: historical drama
  • Duration:
    • 153 minutes ( 2 hours 33 ) – original film version
    • 178 minutes ( 2 hours 58 ) – long version
  • Format: color (Technicolor) – 35 mm / Super Technirama 70 – 2.20: 1 ( 2.35: 1 extended) – mono sound (Westrex Recording System)
  • Release dates:
    • Italy :
    • Cannes Festival :
    • France :
  • Box office France : 3,649,498 entries


  • Burt Lancaster (VO: Corrado Gaipa , VF: Jean Martinelli ) : Prince Fabrizio Corbera de Salina, an aging and lucid Sicilian aristocrat.
  • Alain Delon (VO: Carlo Sabatini , VF: himself) : Tancred Falconeri, his nephew, a charming young man, full of enthusiasm and opportunism, who joins the Garibaldians.
  • Claudia Cardinale (VO: Solvejg D’Assunta , VF: herself) : Angelica Sedara, the very pretty girl of the mayor, courted by Tancred and in love with him.
  • Paolo Stoppa (VF: Alfred Pasquali ) : Don Calogero Sedara, his father, the mayor of Donnafugata, a new wealthy power hungry.
  • Rina Morelli (VF: Jacqueline Ferrière ) : Princess Maria Stella Salina, the prude wife of the prince.
  • Romolo Valli (VF: Robert Marcy ) : Father Pirrone, chaplain to the prince, a Jesuit of popular origin, concerned above all with the interests of the Church .
  • Mario Girotti 1 (VO: Pino Colizzi ) : Count Cavriaghi, a lieutenant friend of Tancred, who is courting Concetta in vain.
  • Pierre Clémenti (VO: Pino Colizzi , VF: himself) : Francesco Paolo Salina, the son of the prince and the princess.
  • Ottavia Piccolo : Caterina.
  • Serge Reggiani (VO: Lando Buzzanca , VF: himself) : Don Francisco Ciccio Tumeo, the organist of Donnafugata, a man of the people loyal to the Bourbons who paid him his studies.
  • Giuliano Gemma : General Garibaldian .
  • Lucilla Morlacchi : Concetta Salina, the daughter of the prince and the princess, in love with Tancred, who rejects her, and who in turn repels Cavriaghi.
  • Ivo Garrani (VF: Jean-Henri Chambois ) : Colonel Pallavicino , the winner of Garibaldi .
  • Leslie French  ( VF: Henri Cremieux ) : the Chevalley cavalryman, the emissary of the Piedmontese government, came to propose a senator’s office to the prince.
  • Ida Galli : Carolina.
  • Lola Braccini : Donna Margherita.
  • Carlo Valenzano : Paolo.
  • Brook Fuller : the little prince.
  • Rina De Liguoro : the princess of Presicce.


Difficulty production

The shooting of the film, which would have required 15 months of intense work, began at the end of December 1961; the first crank turn takes place on the. In the previous autumn, the director, accompanied by Mario Garbuglia, the decorator and Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa’s adopted son, Gioacchino Lanza Tomasi , made a search in Sicily , which did not raise the concerns of producer Goffredo Lombardo .

The investment required by this colossal project is soon superior to the forecasts of the Titanus , while in 1958, immediately after the publication of the novel, she bought the adaptation rights. After a failed co-production agreement with France, the engagement of Burt Lancaster in the lead role, despite the perplexity of Luchino Visconti (who would have preferred Laurence Olivier or the Soviet actor Nikolay Tcherkasov 2 ), and perhaps of the actor himself 3 , allows a distribution agreement for the United States with 20th Century Fox .

However, the losses suffered by the movie Sodom and Gomorrah and The Cheetah caused the suspension of the cinematographic activity of the Titanus 4 .

Filming Locations

Although the objective narrative of events was obscured and marginalized in the film by the subjective gaze of the main character- director , a great deal of attention was paid to the reconstitution of the battles between Garibaldians and the Bourbon army . In Palermo , in the various selected settings (piazza San Giovanni Decollato, piazza della Vittoria allo Spasimo, piazza Sant’Euno), “the asphalt was covered with clay, the iron curtains replaced by shutters and blinds, poles and electrical wires removed ” 5. This happened at the request of Visconti, since the producer Lombardo was worried that there was no scene of fighting.

The restoration of the villa Boscogrande, in the vicinity of the city was also necessary and was carried out in 24 days. This villa embodies, at the beginning of the film, the palace of Salina, whose state did not allow the use of it. Even for the scenes shot in the summer residence of Salina (Castello di Donnafugata, who is identified in the novel with Palma di Montechiaro ), we had to choose another site, Ciminna . Visconti was seduced by the main church and the surrounding landscape. The three-aisled building had a splendid majolica floor . The apse, decorated with stuccoes representing the apostles and angels by Scipione Li Volsi  (it) (1622), was also provided with 1619 wooden stalls., adorned with grotesque motifs, particularly suited to welcome the princes in the scene of the Te Deum . The original ceiling of the church, partially damaged during the shooting, has since been removed and is no longer on the site.

Although the topographic situation of the Ciminna plot seemed optimal, all that was missing was the prince’s palace. But in 45 days, a facade designed by Mario Garbuglia was raised in front of the buildings next to the church. All the paving of the square was rebuilt by removing the asphalt and replacing it with pebbles and tiles 5 . Most of the shooting of the scenes in the residence took place in Palazzo Chigi  (it) in Ariccia 2 .

The ball

In contrast, the state of Palazzo Gangi in Palermo was excellent. This is where we set the final ball, whose choreography was entrusted to Alberto Testa  (it) . The problem was the layout of the ample interior spaces. The Hercolani and Gioacchino Lanza Tomasi himself contributed by loaning furniture, tapestries and trinkets. Several paintings (including the Death of the Righteous ) and other works were commissioned by the production. The final result earned the film a Silver Ribbon 6 with the best decor.

Another silver ribbon rewarded the photograph in color 7 of Giuseppe Rotunno (who had won the previous year with diary ) for the illumination of rooms. The director wanted to minimize the use of electric lights; thousands of candles were to be re-lit at the beginning of each filming session. The preparation of the setting, the need to dress up hundreds of extras 8 demanded for this sequence grueling sessions 9 .

Long version

Originally, the film lasted 205 minutes but the producers demanded to shorten it until Luchino Visconti threatens to go to court. In addition, the film was copied on material in the cheap period and that made disappear the brilliance and the colors of the work, which caused the commercial failure during its exit.

In the mid -1980s , about ten years after the death of Visconti , the film is technicolor back to finally reach a duration of 178 minutes, presenting new scenes:

  • Supplements in the sequence of the battle between the Garibaldians and the royal army in the city including:
    • Supporters of Garibaldi who are arrested and shot under the eyes of their families.
    • The earliest appearance of Count Cavriaghi, played by Mario Girotti 1 , among the Garibaldian soldiers (the character arrived much later in the original montage). He was arrested by a citizen who had a king’s supporter executed.
  • During the family picnic, Prince Salina recounts the time when he received Tancred with Cavriaghi and a Garibaldian General ( Giuliano Gemma ). Later in this scene, he stuns the whole family with his way of singing.
  • Citizens of Palermo warn of the arrival of the prince and his family. The mayor of the city runs to greet them.
  • During their hunt, Don Francisco explains to Prince Salina that he was pushed, during the vote of the referendum, to speak against his opinions.
  • By the time Cavriaghi joins Tancrede and Angelica in one of the abandoned rooms of Palermo’s family palace, the latter announces that he is leaving, realizing that he has no chance with Concetta whom he is in love with.
  • In the card game with Chevalley, Francesco Paolo tells the story of the tragic fate of Baron Mutolo de Donnafugata with humor and sadism: he explains that the baron’s son had been kidnapped and that his family could not afford to pay the ransom, he was restored piece by piece. The prince sum Francesco Paolo to stop.
  • During their conversation, the Prince asks Chevalley what the function of senator means. He answers that the Senate allows to discuss, debate and make decisions on the actions of the kingdom.

This version is presented in the DVD and Blu-Ray editions . Supplements are only in VO with subtitles.

Awards and Distinctions

  • Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival 1963 .
  • Silver ribbons (scenery, photography and staging) in 1964 .
  • Selection of the restored version at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival in the Cannes Classics category .
  • Selected among the 100 Italian films to keep 10 .

On the film

The Cheetah represents a turning point in the artistic career of Luchino Visconti in which the engagement in the politico-social debate of the militant communist fades into a nostalgic retreat of the aristocrat Milan on the search for a lost world, which will characterize the historical films that it will turn next. About the film, the director told himself that he aspired to achieve a synthesis between Mastro Don Gesualdo , of Giovanni Verga , and In Search of Lost Time , by Marcel Proust 11 .

Visconti declared:

“I marry Lampedusa’s point of view, and let’s also say about his character, Prince Fabrizio. The pessimism of Prince Salina causes him to regret the fall of an order which, immobile as it was, was still an order. But our pessimism is loaded with will and, instead of regretting the feudal and Bourbon order, it aims to establish a new order. “

For illustration this replica remained famous:

“If we want everything to stay the same, everything has to change 12 . “

The film describes the management of the crisis by the Italian aristocracy, whose stage of the ball (which lasts 45 minutes) gives the key. It was shot at Palazzo Valguarnera-Gangi in Palermo, but most of the film was shot at Palazzo Chigi  (it) in Ariccia , near Rome 13 . Very involved in the writing of the character of Prince Fabrizio, Visconti chose the American actor Burt Lancaster to embody (the first choice was that of another American, Marlon Brando ). The choice surprised, but proved remarkably relevant. The osmosis will be repeated for another role in which Visconti was projected just as much, in the filmViolence and Passion in 1974. The main character of the film, the Cheetah, is inspired by the great-grandfather of the author of the book, Prince Giulio Fabrizio Tomasi di Lampedusa, who was a renowned astronomer and who, in literary fiction, becomes the prince Fabrizio Salina, fascinated by the observation of the stars, as well as his family between 1860 and 1910 , in Sicily (in Palermo and in their stronghold of Donnafugata, that is to say Palma di Montechiaro and Santa Margherita di Belice , in the province of Agrigento ).

The Missed Revolution

The publication of Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa’s novel had opened a debate in the Italian Left on the Risorgimento as a “revolution without revolution”, starting from the definition of the political thinker Antonio Gramsci in his Prison Notebooks . To those who accused the novel to attack the Risorgimento met a group of intellectuals who appreciated the lucid analysis of the alliance, marked by stagnation, between the old aristocracy and the rising bourgeoisie 14 .

Visconti, who had already confronted the question of Italian unity in Senso ( 1954 ) and who had been deeply moved by the novel, did not hesitate to intervene in the debate proposed to him by Goffredo Lombardo , who had acquired name of the Titanus , the adaptation rights of the book.

In the film, the narration of these events is seen through the subjective gaze of Prince Salina: to his character are connected “as in a planetary alignment, the three views on the world in change: that of the character, that of the work literary, that of the filmic text that shows 15 ” . The look of Visconti is coincide with that of Burt Lancaster, in which the experience of “double” of the director “… worth a deep inner transformation, even on a personal 16 ” .

This is where we can take the turning point in relation to the director’s previous productions: the beginnings of a period when, in his work, “no positive force of history … can be seen as an alternative to the epic of decadence, sung with overwhelming nostalgia 17 ” . This mutation is decisively expressed in the final ball, to which Visconti attributes, in relation to the novel, a more important role both by the duration (alone, it occupies about a third of the film) and by the situation (in the making the conclusion of the film, while the novel continues well after 1862 , to discuss the death of the prince in 1883 and the last years of Concetta early xx th century).

In this sequence, everything is about death. Physical death, especially in the long side of the prince in front of Greuze’s painting The Death of the Righteous . But, above all, the death of a social class , a world of “lions and cheetahs”, replaced by “jackals and hyenas  ” 18 , in the words of the prince himself. The sumptuous setting, a vestige of a glorious past, in which the reception takes place, is the impotent decoration of the irruption and conquest of a crowd of mediocre, greedy and petty characters: thus the vain and swaggering Colonel Pallavicini , and the cunning don Calogero Sedara ( Paolo Stoppa ), representative of a newaffairist bourgeoisie , adept at taking advantage of the uncertainty of the times, and with which the prince’s family had to ally themselves in order to restore their enfeebled blazon. But it is above all the new cynicism and lack of scruples of the beloved nephew, Tancrede (who, after having fought with the Garibaldians, does not hesitate, after the battle of the Aspromonte , to side with the new winners and to approve the execution of the deserters), which announce the end of the moral and aesthetic ideals of the prince’s world 19 .

Notes and references

  1. ↑ a and b The future Terence Hill .
  2. ↑ a and b Alessandro Boschi, The valigia dei sogni  (it) , LA7 , 1 gennaio 2012.
  3. ↑ Caterina D’Amico, La Bottega “Il Gattopardo” , Marsilio. Edizioni di Bianco e Nero, 2001, p. 456.
  4. ↑ “Despite years Lombardo attributed the crisis to the excessive cost of the two films [ Sodom and Gomorrah of Robert Aldrich and The Leopard ], which, despite their public success, failed to break even” (Callisto Cosulich, “The “Titanus Operazione”, in Storia del cinema italiano , Marsilio, Edizioni di Bianco e Nero, 2001, 145).
  5. ↑ a and b Caterina D’Amico, op. cit.
  6. ↑ Nastro d’Argento in Italian.
  7. ↑ At the time, the price was assigned color photography separately and the black and white.
  8. ↑ “The prepared costumes (in addition to the eight reserved for the main actors) were 393: the female clothes were all different, and at least a hundred of them required different coats and outputs. “
  9. ↑ “The buildup began at two in the afternoon, they began to turn eight at night until four in the morning, sometimes up to six hours. “
  10. ↑ Rete degli Spettatori .  [ archive ]
  11. ↑ Luchino Visconti, Il Gattopardo , Bologna, 1963, p.  29 .
  12. ↑ In Translation Fanette Pézard cited by Julie Mestrot Pauline Coullet, “The Leopard” by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa (analysis of the work) , [ read online  [ archive ] ] .
    The original sentence, in Italian, is:

    Be vogliamo che tutto rimanga come è, bisogna che tutto cambi!  “

  13. ↑ (it) The scena del principle – Visconti e Il Gattopardo  [ archive ] on the site of Palazzo Chigi d’Ariccia.
  14. ↑ Trombadori (cura di a) Dialogo con Visconti , Cappelli, Bologna, 1963.
  15. ↑ Luciano De Giusti, The transizione di Visconti , Marsilio, Edizioni di Bianco e Nero, 2001, p. 76.
  16. ↑ Giorgio Gosetti, Il Gattopardo , Milan, 2004.
  17. ↑ Luciano De Giusti, op. cit.
  18. ↑ This is told in the film, Prince of Salina Chevalley.
  19. ↑ Alessandro Bencivenni, Luchino Visconti , ed. The Unità / Il Castoro, Milano, 1995, p.  58-60 .

Leave a comment