Luchino Visconti

Luchino Visconti was an aristocrat, a homosexual, a Marxist, and a director of theater and opera, becoming one of the first major influences in the Italian neorealism movement. Visconti was born into a prominent noble family in Milan, one of seven children of Giuseppe Visconti di Modrone, Duke of Grazzano Visconti and Count of Lonate Pozzolo, and his wife Carla. He was formally known as Count don Luchino Visconti di Modrone and his family is a branch of the House of Visconti. In his early years he was exposed to art, music and theatre, and during World War II Visconti decided to join the Italian Communist Party. Visconti made no secret of his homosexuality and his last partner was Austrian actor Helmut Berger who played in Visconti’s film The Damned (1969) and Ludwig (1972). Visconti began his filmmaking career as an assistant director for Jean Renoir, and together with Roberto Rossellini, Visconti joined the salotto of Vittorio Mussolini. It was here where Visconti presumably met Federico Fellini. Lover of seamy social realism, Visconti wrote the screenplay for his first film as director called Ossessione (1943), which became the very first neorealism movie and an unofficial adaptation of the novel The Postman Always Rings Twice. In 1948 he wrote and directed La terra trema, which is a neorealist classic that explores the lives of fishermen at the mercy of greedy wholesalers in rural Sicely. Visconti continued working throughout the 1950s, although he veered away from the neorealism path with his 1954 film Senso, shot in colour. Based on the novella by Camillo Boito, the story combines realism and romanticism as a way to break away from gritty neorealism. Visconti returned to neorealism once more with his operatic melodrama Rocco and His Brothers (1960), chronicling the modern story of an immigrant family from the South and its disintegration in the industrial city of Milan, hoping to find financial stability. Throughout the 1960s, Visconti’s films became much more personal. It was Visconti’s love and respect for tradition, decadence, and of the slow decline of the Sicilian aristocracy which was explored in his epic masterpiece The Leopard, which is looked at by many critics as one of the greatest films ever made. It starred American actor Burt Lancaster in the role of Prince Don Fabrizio and the film was distributed in America and Britain by Twentieth-Century Fox, which deleted important key scenes. Visconti’s final swan song Death in Venice (1971) tells the story of an avant-garde composer who arrives in Venice and meets a young man whose beauty becomes the object of the composer’s affection. After suffering from multiple strokes Visconti died in Rome at the age of 69, but fortunately in Ischia there is a museum dedicated to the director’s brilliant work.

Luchino Visconti
Luchino Visconti Featured Films
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Articles and Essays on Luchino Visconti

Rocco and His Brothers (1960)

Rocco and his Brothers is one of the most operatic melodrama’s of all time, involving a modern Italian family and their personal experiences when moving to the city of Milan one cold winter. Italian director Luchino Visconti was an aristocrat, a homosexual, a Marxist, and a director of theater and opera, becoming one of the major […]


Leopard, The (1963)

“We were the leopards, the lions, those who take our place will be jackals hyenas, and all of us – leopards, lions, jackals and sheep – will go on thinking ourselves the salt of the earth.” Prince Don Fabrizio Corberta is a noble aristocrat of impeccable integrity who has a great love for a way of life he understands must […]