five things to know about the famous prom scene

Netflix, which is still blacklisted for the Cannes Film Festival, which opens on May 17, is drawing Visconti’s 1963 Palme d’Or masterpiece. A chance to see again the last scene, a long ball of three quarters of an hour, where love and death dance. ..

Lampedusa’s novel, then Visconti’s film, Cheetah tells about the end of one world and the beginning of another. Between 1860 and 1862, the decisive phase of the “Risorgimento” took place in Italy, its unification into a kingdom, officially proclaimed on March 17, 1861. This revolutionary movement marked the beginning of the inevitable decline of the nobility, which was replaced by a populace that had just become rich but without manners. , which consisted of the bourgeoisie and landowners. This goes all the way to Sicily, where, when the film opens in 1860, Garibaldi has just landed. Prince Don Fabrizio Salina (Burt Lancaster) watches these upheavals with melancholy, whose nephew, Tancred (Alain Delon), falls in love with a monkey, finally with a bourgeois Angelica (Claudia Cardinale). During a ball held in November 1862, he resolved this union. What is really happening in this scene?

That pretty much sums it all up

The prince’s words are quite clear: the world “lions and cheetahs” about to be replaced by another where “Jackals and hyenas”. No, he does not perceive the situation well. During this ball, where the bourgeois arrive at the nobles in their huge clogs, it is the beginning of the end. Moreover, the prince looks at this picture of Greza for a long time, Death of the righteous where the whole family surrounds the father on his deathbed. Leaving the palace early in the morning, he turns his gaze to the sky and asks: “Star, faithful star, when will you give me a less ephemeral rendezvous, far from everything, in your land of eternal certainty? »

Prince Don Fabrizio Salina (Burt Lancaster) melancholy decides to marry his nephew Tancred with the bourgeois Angelica.

This closes the movie, but not the novel

Although Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa wrote it after the rest, this scene constitutes the penultimate part of the novel, which continues until 1863 with the death of the prince. Luchino Visconti prefers to dwell on November 1862 not only because the rest of the book, according to him, only “unattractive appendix”, but also because this scene has a great ending. He intervenes when Garibaldi suffers his first defeat at Aspromonte, which marks the end of the revolutionary adventure, but also at a time when the bourgeoisie prevails over the nobility, and when the individual trajectories of the three protagonists, the prince, Tancred and Angelique, have found resolution.

A real palace instead of a fake one

The scene was shot in the Palazzo Gangi, eight thousand square meters in the center of Palermo, owned by the Gangi family since its construction in 1750. There is a hall of mirrors reminiscent of Versailles and a whole bunch of elements. which match the descriptions of Palazzo Pantaleone, a figment of Lampedusa’s imagination.

Epic shooting

We often talk about shooting by candlelight Barry Lyndon Kubrick (1975), but Visconti twelve years earlier also sought to eliminate electric light as much as possible to shoot this score. During these eight nights of work, thousands of candles were lit, extinguished, lit again to light three hundred more. We are talking about three hundred and ninety-three costumes, one outfit per woman… Fittings began around two o’clock, and filming began at eight o’clock, until four or six o’clock in the morning.

Three hundred extras and three hundred and ninety-three costumes were needed for the ball scene.

Three hundred extras and three hundred and ninety-three costumes were needed for the ball scene.

Pathe/Titanus/Gaumont

An inexhaustible source of inspiration

Cheetah quickly became a cult film for almost everyone, but perhaps even more so for American cinema, whose Hollywood model was in crisis in the 1960s. The Godfather, Francis Ford Coppola (1972) and A journey to the end of hell Michael Cimino (1978), opening with Dantesque wedding scenes apparently inspired by a ball hosted by Visconti. But, undoubtedly, this film by Martin Scorsese, which he also directed the restoration of in 2010, stood out the most. It is enough to see The age of innocence understand.

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with Cheetah, Luchino Visconti. Available on Netflix.

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