There was an interesting programme on TV the other night (and I watched it on iPlayer) by the Italian food bod Antonio Carlucci about the novel The Leopard (Il Gattopardo) by (Prince) Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, the author, the novel’s emphasis on food and the meals eaten in the novel.
The novel is about the passing of the old order in Sicily with the invasion of the island by Guiseppe Garibaldi and the slow decline of a noble family, personified by the central character, Don Fabrizio Corbera, Prince of Salina. One of the points made in the novel (which I haven’t read) was that the way of life carries on as before in Sicily with the middle class and gentry taking over the leading role of the nobility. Despite Garibaldi’s invasion to make the island part of a greater Italy, nothing changes. The Prince opposes Garibaldi, but his nephew supports him, although cynically observes that ‘there has to be change in order for things to stay the same. Lampedusa (left) was also a scion of the Sicilian nobility, which also declined and whose various palazzi were destroyed or partially destroyed in the war. He wrote the novel, his one work, in the years before he died in 1955 and lived only to see two publishers reject it for publication. It was finally published in 1958 and became a sensation in Italy and has not been out of print since. As I say, I haven’t read the novel, but I have seen seen Luchino Visconti’s film starring Burt Lancaster, which I enjoyed. The casting was odd in the Lancaster, who didn’t speak Italian well enough to act in the language, spoke his lines in English and was then dubbed. The producers wanted a star name to justify the budget and when Visconti’s suggestion proved unavailable, Hollywood cast Lancaster (below) without consulting Visconti,
who was rather pissed off about it. Alain Delon, though, who played Tancredi, does speak Italian (I think). It’s rather a good film, though very long and not one for action fans. The only other two films by Visconti I’ve seen are Death In Venice and The Damned. I also rather liked Death In Venice, but - well The Damned? What on earth was that? A charitable but honest judgment could go no further than observing that it, and everything about it, is complete bollocks.
I thought it was perhaps the worst or, at best, one of the worst films I’ve ever seen. It is - and I’m obliged to add, in my opinion - simply terrible, terrible, terrible. I suppose it underlines the danger of reputation: Visconti had an excellent reputation as a filmmaker and, I should imagine, no one had the heart to tell him his new filmd The Damned (in Italian La Caduta Degli Dei) was complete crap. It must have been something like the Emperor's New Clothes.
Everything is wrong about it, the story, the acting, the direction. In its depiction of the Nazis, it struck me as being like one of those really hammy TV movies which are churned out on a budge to fit around the adverts.
. . .
Then there was Dirk Bogarde: why he is generally thought to be a good actor is beyond me. He was OK in all those light ‘n frothy Doctor films, but then he decided he wanted to be taken seriously (nothing wrong in that, though) and went for ‘serious’ roles. But as far as I am concerned the man couldn’t act his way out of a paper bag. There is a publicity
still from the film The Singer Not The Song in which Bogarde stars as a cowboy kitted out in black leather which sums up that man and his talent for me. Ham isn’t the word.
I have just searched on the net for it, but all I can come across are the one above and the one below. The shot of him lying down on the ground - why lying down on the ground? - is particularly ludicrous and gives a further dimension to the word ‘camp’. He seems to be truly unaware of just how ridiculous he looks. What was the man thinking?
. . .
Since writing the above, I did a bit more hunting and have come up with a third still from the film, which is quite possibly even more ludicruous than the one above.
In most careers, the manage, who is generally thought to be a little more grounded, not to say saner, than the artiste he or she represents, warns about the possibility to looking ridiculous. But as in Bogarde's case his manager Tony
Forward was also his partner, perhaps he wasn't as alert as he might have been to the possibility that the film, from which these stills are taken, could kill Bogarde's Hollywood career stone dead. Which it did.
I don't have a down on Bogarde, it's just that I don't think he was half as good an actor as he apparently did - he and several famous directors it has to be said. In the second half of his career - the 'serious' half - he did seem to make a pointt of acting in films with a gay theme, for example as the lawyer about to be outed as gay in Victim, of The Servant, which has marked gay undertone.
I find him especially ludicrous as Julie Christie's lover in Darling, a film which has definitely not stood the test of time. What makes it all the sillier is that his character leaves his wife and family for Christie, who then does the dirty on him, and, in some way, we are supposed to feel sorry for him.
The screenwriter was Frederic Raphael, who thought - thinks, he's still alive - awfully clever and tried to make every second line a quotable quote. (I've heard some things by him on the radio, and in them he did the same thing.) Unfortunately, all those lines did was to make Bogarde out to be something of a hissy queen. Mind, my stepmother use to fancy him like fury when he was younger. Shame he batted for the other side.
But that's enough Borgarde for the day.