Senso (1954)

LUCHINO VISCONTI

Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.5.  , 1954.  .  Story and Screenplay by , , with the collaboration of , , , and dialogue collaboration by , , based on the novel by .  Cinematography by , .  Produced by .  Production Design by .  Costume Design by , .  Film Editing by .

Alida Valli in Senso.

Luchino Visconti’s first historical panorama is a soppy romance set against a gorgeous and convincing backdrop.  is excellent as a late nineteenth-century Venetian aristocrat, married to a stuffy old man, who becomes unwittingly involved in the Italian rebellion against the Austrian occupiers when she falls madly in love with a handsome officer () from the opposing side.  She is still physically obsessed with him when he follows her to Verona after her husband has moved them away from the increasing danger of the city on the water, and in her desperation to keep him around makes a moral choice that has a grave effect on her country and, eventually, the object of her desire himself.  At some point, the viewer’s patience with Valli, whose facial expressions become more severely desperate as she becomes ever more unreasonably obsessed with a man who wears far too much eyeliner, begins to wear thin, but at a time when period melodramas were made on fake sets with painted backdrops, the realism of everything here, from the locations to the sumptuous costumes, gives the film a rich, three-dimensional texture.  Visconti would go on to create an even more compelling look at the risorgimento in The Leopard, in which his characters and dialogue would be up to the standard of his talent for visual complexity, but Senso is still a notable entry in the filmmaker’s canon as the first of a type that would come to define him as an auteur.

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