The Innocent (aka L’innocente) is Luchino Visconti (The Leopard)’s last film. The great director died in March 1976, whilst working on the editing of the movie, therefore prompting questions about the paternity of this cruel reflexion about free will and its consequences. The movie was also criticised due to the fact that it is adapted from a novel by Gabriele d'Annunzio, a very famous Italian author whose nationalistic ideas influenced Italian fascism and the rise of Mussolini, after the First World War, despite Visconti, an aristocrat himself, being more known for his leftist sensibilities. Beyond all these considerations, it is clear when watching L’innocente that it definitely belongs to the outstanding filmography of the director of The Leopard.
Tullio (Giancarlo Giannini, Seven Beauties) is an aristocrat married to the beautiful Giuliana (Laura Antonelli, Passion of Love), submissive and restrained, whom he deceives in a tumultuous affair with the countess Teresa Raffo (Jennifer O’Neill, Summer of’ 42). When his affair comes to an end, he discovers with astonishment that Giuliana has taken a lover. Outraged by this unsuspected audacity, he does everything to reconquer his wife. He gradually understands that it is too late and that she is irretrievably lost. He then resolves to a desperate gesture…
The first striking element when watching L’innocente is that in line with his previous efforts, and despite being at the dusk of his life, Visconti still managed to make a visually stunning work of art. The cinematography created by Pasqualino de Santis (A Special Day) is absolutely gorgeous and this might be, with The Leopard, Visconti’s most aesthetically appealing film. However, the director doesn’t satisfies himself with filming red velvet walls, chandeliers and elaborate dresses; his meticulous direction also actually breathes life into the various locations in which this story of desire, infidelity and betrayal takes places, to the point of channelling the feelings of the main characters (for instance, confinement or isolation during the scenes between Giuliana and Tulio).
As in his previous work, Visconti adds an underlying layer of reflexion about human nature in opposition to the conventions. The movie still depicts the decadence of Italian aristocracy at the end of the 19th century, acting as if the world was not changing for good, but also how these conventions can lead to a certain degree of freedom of thought and how, in turns, this spawns frustration. In short, a gripping reflexion about human nature and the conventions created by men.
This is perfectly illustrated by Tulio’s character. He is tormented but at the same time, he doesn’t feel any regret for his acts. Tulio is led by his desire and doesn’t care about conventions; for instance, early in the movie he admits his passion for the countess Raffo to his wife without worrying about her feelings. His jealousy his similar; he stares at his wife’s lover, when the latter is literally nude, not hiding any of his feelings. Despite all the characters being interesting, Tulio really stands out as the most fascinating character and in this complex role, Giannini is absolutely perfect. His portrayal of a man who either frankly tells what he wants, even when outrageous, or unashamedly displays it on his face is perfect and plays an important role in the attraction L’innocente has on its audience.
In an ultimate proof of his immense talent, Visconti reinforces the impact of Tulio’s actions with an intimate direction and, in doing so he creates a striking contrast between the similarly small scope of the movie (there are only three real main characters) and the magnitude of the themes tackled, which could easily be put in parallel with the director’s approaching end of life (he already had a stroke in 1972 before the fatal one in 1976).
For all these reasons, L’innocente should not be forgotten in Visconti’s filmography and should actually be considered as a fitting final film for one of the greatest directors of all time.
L’innocente is release on Blu-ray disc on 10th April by CultFilms.
After their recent releases of A Special Day and Two Women, this new release is another opportunity to witness the amazing work achieved by the new label in distributing important Italian movies in the UK.
L’innocente looks incredible on Blu-ray. The colors are vivid and the level of details is greatly appreciable. There are no traces of dirt, scratches or other defects and the experience is a delight.
On the sound side, L’innocente is presented in a clear LPCM Italian audio track with no apparent defects or distortions. The dialogues do not pose any issue (they are quite scarce). Most importantly the music track is very well rendered allowing to appreciate fully Franco Mannino (Beat the Devil)’s score and the classical pieces from Chopin, Mozart, Liszt and Gluck chosen by the Maestro and his composer. The disc offers removable English subtitles.
As in the other CultFilms releases, the bonus section is engaging but remains an area of potential improvement, obviously taking into account that the quality and the number of supplemental features is mainly due to the label’s quite recent creation (it was born from the fusion of two classic art-house labels, Argent Films and Nouveaux Pictures, at the beginning of 2017). For this edition of L’innocente, CultFilms has included only one extra, a documentary entitled The Innocent at Work (48 min) which includes conversations with Renata Franceschi and Giorgio Treves, who both worked closely with Luchino Visconti during the making of the movie, respectively as script supervisor and second assistant director, and remained friends with the director until his death. This is a very insightful documentary about the Maestro and the movie itself, particularly in relation to the questions about the paternity of movie to which Franceschi provides an unequivocal answer.