Thursday 21 June 2018 11.47pm
‘Leopards, Hyenas, Lions, Jackals and all things Wild’ 2018
The Leopard (1963)
A Luchino Visconti Film
Top 100 Films –
The Leopard is equal #57 with Touch of Evil (1958) in the 2012 BFI Critics Poll.
The Leopard doesn’t reigster on the 2012 BFI Directors Poll (on the BFI website).
If there’s only one thing I’ve learned – and there’s more than one, possibly two or three – from this 365-day exercise of viewing a couple of hundred films from twenty or thirty countries – it would take anyone a lifetime of historical study to comprehend the social or political factors surrounding what ever happened before, during, or after the period that film was set, in that particular country.
That’s why the scope became so broad. Broader than I’d ever had the capacity to understand at 11pm on June 30, 2017, a year ago.
For tonight’s screening of the Leopard, I invited my friend of thirty-nine years. We’ve seen a lot of films and listened to a lot of music over the years. He’d seen it twice before and remembers it as a powerful film. When we watched Amarcord together a few months ago, when I mentioned The Leopard was one of those films on my list, he mentioned he was keen to see The Leopard again. So, I put Visconti on hold for eight weeks until James was back from his overseas travels in late April or early May.
I knew nothing about this Italian film other than it was, 1) Italian, 2) starred Burt Lancaster and, 3) was directed by the maestro, Luchino Visconti, whose reputation preceded him even though most of his films didn’t (in my experience). The only film of his I’d seen was the strange, mysterious Death in Venice which my friend James liked. I admired it as a youth but – reflect as an adult – I almost certainly didn’t understand it.
I didn’t even know that The Leopard had a film score by Nino Rota, who is one of the thirty greatest European film composers who ever knew the difference between a semibreve and a semiquaver. Probably even one of the twenty greatest film composers who ever raised a baton.
Tonight’s lesson was not about Italian history, or learning more about Cinema that was made in countries where English was not a first, second or even third language! It was about the journey that a human being takes with another human being. That journey could last for 24-hours or 24-years. If it’s the latter it’s probably more meaningful than the former, generally speaking, . If a friendship survives losing parents and still remains supportive, and then falters, but still continues, and is loving of films and loving of music, ignores politics and religion, and has a healthy regard for the intelligence and the abilities of one another, then I think James and I qualify.
James is a survivor. He survived a life in which what he was and what he did and what he enjoyed was on a path less travelled than most people. I, too, am a survivor, taking a path to where and who I am – who I still want to be, what I still want to achieve – from the things I have done and the things I have enjoyed. It was – like James – a similarly less travelled path.
That similarity, despite the difference of twenty-four years, is what united us firstly, and brought us together again, tonight. We met in December of 1979 and thirty-eight years later we’re still talking. Infrequently, but occasionally, at least.
I’m so glad I did. The triumph of the night was not the quality of the film we watched (which was excellent) but the quality of the conversation we had. After. Subsequently.
James and I met and then collaborated in one of the most important ventures in Australian music – the creation of 1M1 Records. It was ground-breaking then and still is, even now, because it established a regard for Australian film music that still exists, and sells, today and tomorrow and next week. In the early days of 1M1 Records James and I also packed a lot of jewel cases with slicks and discs while listening to countless hours of opera.
After enjoying the powerful message of The Leopard, the loss of a certain way of life, it was interesting to reflect that times moves on for all of us and we all experience things that pass away, things that become outdated, superseded or die out because of a declining interest. Sometimes it’s because our interest declines but sometimes it is because the priorities of the world have changed.