“The Leopard” is an Italian period piece about a revolution in Sicily in 1860 where the middle class became the dominant power instead of the high society royalty that was as ancient as the city itself. The main character is played by Burt Lancaster, an aging prince who enjoys the lavish lifestyle he’s been able to live proudly and arrogantly, believing more in the city of Sicily than its people, but slowly comes to realize that his reign and enjoyment is coming to an end. The soundtrack was composed by Mario Luoz, who also created the unforgettable sounds of “The Godfather,” and his work here adds a lavish yet decaying atmosphere to the film that it so desperately needed, striking just the right emotional note.
I’ve been hesitant to watch “The Leopard” after I learned the version I have dubbed over all of Lancaster’s lines in Italian, and it certainly hurt this version of the movie. While Lancaster conveys so much heartache and loss through just his intense facial expressions, something he has always been stellar at, his performance doesn’t hit quite the right emotional notes due to his dubbing not always having the same intensity he would. No actor has ever been quite as passionate and outspoken in his roles as Burt Lancaster, and it feels like something is missing when it’s not his voice.
Overall, “The Leopard” is a serviceable period piece. It captures the heartache of the upper class and the joy of the middle class wonderfully, achieved through production design, music and cinematography. Lancaster’s performance works at certain moments, especially in the quieter scenes, but it doesn’t work as well as it could have. The pacing is slow and arduous at times, and the fact that its over three hours can make this one a chore to sit through. Still, as far as Italian period pieces go, this is still elaborate and lavish.
Final Grade: C+