The Leopard

This study focuses on Gilles Deleuze’s use of Luchino Visconti’s 1963 cinematic rendition of the 1958 novel by Prince Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, Il Gattopardo (The Leopard). (1) In Cinema 2: The Time Image, within the chapter “The crystals of time”, Deleuze dedicates four pages to what he sees as Visconti’s version of the crystal in the process of decomposition. Deleuze calls this the fourth state of the crystal of time, and uses Visconti’s work to illustrate it. (2) What I will show is how Visconti’s The Leopard is forced into the concept of “decomposition”. Deleuze misses the minor language in Visconti’s adaptation of The Leopard, convinced that Visconti represents the decomposition of the crystal that has four combinations.

For Deleuze, the crystals of time are states of the crystal, where cinema works from an atmosphere bathed by images that it presents. This construction of images is the modern phase of film, where cinema masters its own supply of space and time, and where the world, once the reportive locus classicus, is part of the stipulative power of cinematic art. This is already in operation and captive of the grander narrative structures of Sicilian aristocracy in the works that influenced Lampedusa, and that Visconti faithfully adapted. For the Sicilian gaze, history is an actor of opportunity on the island’s stage.

The first combination is the aristocratic world. Deleuze sees this as a synthetic crystal outside history and nature, yet overlooks that this world includes the becoming-rich – the arrangements of Tancredi Falconeri (Alain Delon) with Angelica Sedara (Claudia Cardinale), the daughter of Don Calogero Sedara (Paolo Stoppa) – and the becoming-noble – Don Calogero. (3)

The Leopard

The second combination is saturation, the clash between scenic composition and the process of decomposition. (4) This is seen in Tancredi and Angelica’s journey through the abandoned palace of Donnafugata, where bizarre extravagances were forgotten, and “little powdered demons had been put to flight […] as sleeping embryos, hibernating under piles of dust” (5). Pairing scenic composition and decomposition is not a theme of The Leopard, especially when the omnipresent and preserving “dust” is noticed. Decay is preserved by the surfaces of narration, an aspect of Sicilian Baroque. (6)

As the third combination of the decomposition of the crystal, Deleuze mentions history, the doubling of decomposition, an autonomous, elliptical, out-of-field power that disorganizes the crystal’s substance. A closer viewing of the film reveals that although Prince Don Fabrizio di Salina (Burt Lancaster) converses with the stars, they are referred to in terms of Parmenidean constancy, doubling nothing but composition. Deleuze’s rush to the image of decomposition is blind to Don Fabrizio’s graceful turning to images of constancy. (7)

The fourth combination of the decomposition of the crystal is the “something arriving too-late”, a dimension of time opposed to the dimensions of the past. The term “too-late” refers to Cavalier Chevalley (Leslie French) attempting to procure Sicilian representation by asking Prince Fabrizio to be part of the Italian senate. (8) Deleuze misses what that “something” is, which is impervious to decomposition since it is the “product of twenty-five centuries of bearing the weight of a superb and heterogeneous civilization [where] we’re worn out and exhausted”, yet preserved. (9) For two thousand and five hundred years, Sicily, as Don Fabrizio makes clear to the northerner Chevalley, has been a colony. Deleuze misperceives the figure of Prince Don Fabrizio, who of all the characters is the least opaque and unopposed to the past. The Prince remains permanently above the action and critical of it, as in the scene in the observatory with Father Pirrone (Romolo Valli); with Mariannina (Olimpia Cavalli), the prostitute in Palermo; and with Chevalley. Deleuze misreads the film by overlooking these crucial figures.

What decomposes? Is it the image of aristocracy? Unlikely, since Don Fabrizio’s relations remain measured by the same distance throughout the film, whether entertaining progressive illusions, reactionary hope, nostalgia or measured eroticism. Is expression what decomposes? (10) This is what must decompose in Deleuze’s view of the crystal, but nowhere does the film grant this reading. L’espressione and la bella figura remain steadfast. The time-image is powerless against Sicilian aristocracy, which is immobile, dream-like and autonomous. As Don Fabrizio explains to Chevalley, “They are coming to teach us good manners. But they won’t succeed, because we are gods.” (11)

Deleuze misunderstands the environment of the Sicilian sun and earth, where landscape is treated as a face. This face “becomes another kind of object in space, a terrain on which may be enacted dramas broad as battles, and sometimes more intense” (12). Notice the scene of peasants working in the fields leading to the ball scene. Lampedusa’s Sicily is like that. In Deleuze’s “process of decomposition” – or, in the words of Bernard Dort, “inevitable degradation” (13) from which Deleuze transposed the metaphor – this powerful image of absorption and adaptation is already resolved in Sicily’s landscape. Could this be how Deleuze attached himself to the detail where roses bought in Paris, and brought to the villa Salina degenerated in the Sicilian earth? Yet, by the higher tastes of the Prince, these roses captured the scent of the thighs of ballerinas, “excited at first, and made more tender from the vigorous and numbing juices of the Sicilian soil parched by July’s apocalyptic sun mutated into a kind of cabbage the color of flesh. Obscene, but they distilled a dense aroma, almost indecent, that no French gardener could have ever dreamed of.” (14) This is Sicily’s impulse-image, its accursed soil, disturbing hyper-naturalism and truncating realism that Visconti’s adaptation captures. (15)

The Leopard

One can not escape the film’s rendition of Don Fabrizio’s style of control and regulation. (16) The loss of ground to the house of Salina does not decompose the master’s narrative of its return to unity. Notice the scene in which Don Fabrizio and Don Calogero discuss the marriage contract, where Don Calogero, standing in front of a map of Donnafugata and its region, divides parts of his hectares of land for the marriage contract. Not even this counts as a deterritorialisation, for soon after Don Calogero tells the Prince that the Sedaras are (once a missing link is found) also noble. This “heraldic impromptu gave the Prince the incomparable artistic satisfaction of seeing a type realized in all its details” (17). The construction of power remains the Prince’s as he merges hyena and jackal. Even the Risorgimento history, another example of hyena and jackal mentality crystallizing in the barrack rhetoric of Colonel Pallavicino (Ivo Garrani), is entertained on the soil of natural aristocracy and succumbs to this absorption as another “convenient settlement” (accomodamenti). (18)

The Leopard is guided by an antagonism of the old and new that even in its failure, or falsity, does not decompose. It is an organic classical state, not a crystalline, time-based modern state. The crystal-image is the crystallization of the optical-image formed by its relation to action. (19)

The description of the crystal-image is part of the immemorial tension between virtual and actual image. This is seen in the mirrored images of Prince Don Fabrizio and Tancredi, in the mirrors in which Don Fabrizio inspects himself before the dinner when Don Calogero and Angelica arrive, where Don Fabrizio looks at the girls at the ball, where Angelica and Concetta (Lucilla Morlacchi) are reflected, and where Tancredi and Don Fabrizio give themselves a final look. Where in the density of mirroring effects does decomposition take place? (20)

With the crystal-image we are at the “most fundamental [modern] operation of time” (21). How can this be reconciled with The Leopard‘s classical position, powerful thematic and formal conventions? This concept of power is especially present in the figure of Don Fabrizio, Prince of Salina. Notice the two flashbacks in the film referring to hidden beauty, one mythological and the other of dark familial secrets. The film works within this kind of “exchange of interaction and capture, or absorption and creation” (22). None of this is mentioned by Deleuze. (23)

How does Deleuze set Visconti’s The Leopard into the fourth and final state of the crystal? (24) The move is rather extraordinary in its simplicity. From Max Ophüls’ “perfect completed crystal” (25), we pass to the second state of the crystal, through Jean Renoir, where the crystal is flawed, dividing in two by how the actual or the virtual leave the crystal. Next is the third state (Federico Fellini’s stage) where the crystal grows by the seeds dispersed (26), which return an environment where actual or virtual images have travelled back into the crystal. The fourth state is the exhaustion of Fellini’s hopscotch game of childhood memory, historical/sociological, archaeology/kinesthics, the decomposition of the crystal – or, to use Félix Guattari’s term, its “ritornello” (27). Yet, a “ritornello” is not decomposition. Such classification flies in the face of the transformismo at the heart of The Leopard. (28)

In The Leopard, the guile of the fragment is taken as an impulse-image, a preserved zone of the originary Sicilian world. (29) Recall the fate of the Parisian roses transplanted in Sicilian soil. Decomposition is how naturalism and verism give way to decadentism. Yet, decadentism, as a literary movement, is not decomposition.

To see The Leopard as “decomposition” is to perform a type of Hegelianism, by arranging tidy moves from Ophüls, to Renoir, to Fellini and finally to Visconti. It is also to betray Antonin Artaud’s critique of cinema and Deleuze’s belief in its “crucial importance” (30). With Artaud, Deleuze recognized a “powerlessness which does not yet have a bearing on cinema, but on the contrary defines the real object-subject of cinema” (31). This is what The Leopard uncovers and what Visconti captured from the novel. Following this line would have revealed the “story of lethargy and inertia, seen as natural products of the sun and earth of Sicily” (32). Deleuze’s critical optimism reined in an example of how Sicilian minor literature recomposes a “world that is making cinema for itself”. This is what Deleuze did not see in the film. This is what makes the “spaces and times of minorities who can no longer be ‘represented’ by intellectuals” (33). This aspect is in Don Fabrizio’s furthering the “foreign language in the language of the time”, for “those that do not yet exist”, in relation to Tancredi and Angelica. (34) Salient points of minor language in the film are where “language stammers” (notice Don Calogero, the exclamation of pleasure in Mariannina, Sarah and Princess Maria Stella Salina (Rina Morelli)), or the “stretched tensors through all of language” (notice Tancredi, Father Pirrone, Don Ciccio Tumeo and Colonel Pallavicino). (35) Visconti picked up on this aspect and “bears witness to the unlocalized presence of an indirect discourse at the heart of every statement” (36). This is an exacting description of the Sicilian world. The Leopard is an example of this majority seen as “Nobody” and the becoming-minoritarian of everybody. (37) How is it that Deleuze, who pursued the “becoming-minor of philosophy”, missed this becoming-minoritarian in The Leopard? (38)

The Leopard

By refusing to pay attention to organic narration, Deleuze’s state of decomposition of crystalline description is fatal to his own theory. Deleuze divests the film’s spaces and times of unrepresentable minorities, from the aristocracy to the unification of the peasants. While doing theory is a putting oneself within and between different practices, inside “the other practices with which it interferes”, interference must recognize the existing patterns that are being run as “preserved zones” and the “artificiality of the sets” (39). Decomposition is both a preserved zone and an artificiality of sets in The Leopard‘s Sicily. This self-interference remains originary to the action of The Leopard, not a space where, due to decomposition, the crystal is jarred from immobility. To move in this direction, a movement that the film itself does not allow, is remarkably naïve, but understandable, since theory desires to progress, even in its own decomposition.

In The Leopard, Visconti is reading the time-image not as conquest or coming to essence, or degrading of a telos, but as maintenance of interiority, as life seen through the “self-interrogation of an aristocrat obsessed with the need to account for his own survival” (40). This self-interrogation applies to the figure of Don Fabrizio, Tomasi di Lampedusa and Visconti. (41) To their position one may apply what Jean-Luc Godard said about Bande à part (1964); “it is the world that is out of synch; they are right, they are true, they represent life. They live a simple story; it is the world around them which is living a bad script.” (42)

In The Leopard, we see the “whole that is no longer the logos unifying the parts, but the drunkenness, the pathos which bathes them and spreads out in them […] a primitive language, an internal monologue” (43). For Visconti, “meaning is not in the image, it is in the shadow of the image projected by montage onto the field of consciousness of the spectator” (44). There is no mistaking this kind of projecting if one reviews a handful of interviews with Visconti. (45) Even without knowledge of the source of Visconti’s film, the power of the scenes reveal how immobility remains the backbone of The Leopard. (46) The film and novel remain within the narrative movement of the master (Prince Fabrizio di Salina), where images and signs perform servile tasks. What is important is that the Salinas get to Donnafugata.

The Leopard is a story of lethargy and inertia, of Sicily that problematises its real milieu into incompossible narrative. It is a world that makes cinema for itself. (47) This part of the crystal image in “narration” (48), and as “story” (49), is what The Leopard constructs as un-decomposed crystal-image, a virtual becoming that “takes itself as its object in the process of its making or of its setbacks in being made” (50). Where can decomposition take place in such a structure? (51)

In The Leopard, there is invention and conversions, but the root of Visconti’s rendition is firmly planted in a fidelity to the original text. (52) Another part of Visconti’s cinematic approach is clarified if one studies his 47 works for the stage, and his directing of 22 pieces of opera and ballet. (53) Visconti is much closer to Artaud than Deleuze realized. Using what Deleuze states about Artaud, one could say that Visconti “soon thinks that theatre is more capable of renewing itself and freeing sound powers, than a still limited, over-visual cinema, even if this means that the theatricalization has to include electronic rather than cinematographic aids” (54). In agreement with Bazin, “to create theater of any worthwhile kind is more difficult than to create cinema” (55). What Anton Chekhov brought to the stage from the historical novel, Visconti brings to cinema from his work in theatre and literary masterpieces. (56)

Deleuze’s view of Visconti’s cinematic æsthetics fails when considering Sicilian minor literature, with which Visconti was working in The Leopard. Like Lampedusa, Visconti belongs in an ambiguous neo-realism, the memorial productions, tinged by its own lamentation for action. Il Gattopardo is not quite a historical novel, but a memorial production wherein history makes an appearance. Historical figures (in particular Giuseppe Garibaldi) are reduced to “carriage flies” (mosche cocchiere) within the sweeping tempo of Sicily experienced as the abstract, immutable, and eternal category of sublime indifference. (57)

If the thought of the “crystal in the process of decomposition” makes sense in relation to The Leopard, it needs to be linked to that “certain motor helplessness […] one which makes him [the Prince of Salina] all the more capable of seeing and hearing” (58). This is an example of “creating that isn’t communicating but resisting” (59). In the minor language of Sicilian literature, the action-image (realism) is forever bound to the impulse-image (naturalism), as image-at-rest. Deleuze actually divests the protagonist’s gaze that make up points in the intersections of images-at-rest captured in the coincidence between the narrating eye and the protagonist Don Fabrizio. (60) Within The Leopard‘s Sicily, this structure is the way things are, the way temporality is within each joint, impossible to decompose without distorting its anatomy. Each attempt to raise a new image that would weld the action to a world finds itself part of the island’s invariance. This is what The Leopard captures. The Leopard‘s Sicily is a “vast crystalline universe” (61), not one open to the decomposition, nor open to time. Decomposition misses the baroque folds in the world and elementary impulses that make up Sicilian narratives – continually reanimating their own story even if in a heap of livid dust. (62)

The Leopard

Visconti works this impulse between camera mobility and montage. The montage found in The Leopard‘s ball scene, a tracking shot made to resemble an organic montage consuming all before it remained undeveloped by Deleuze. The ball scene, lasting 46 minutes of the 185 minute film, is a single camera movement acquiring the “syntactic effect of a series of cuts [montage-like] because of the single use of the 14 rooms of the palace in which it was filmed in Palermo” (63). Prince Don Fabrizio di Salina constitutes the whole, guaranteeing it as the mirror-image of time flowing from the movement of the tracking-shot by the montage of architectural elements of the palace. (64) Deleuze does not recollect the aristocratic eye of Don Fabrizio, which performs this same trick throughout the entire film.

From this aristocratic eye one can understand the “too-late” as implying the power of clairvoyance. Only in such a way can one grasp Don Fabrizio’s master statement: “it is not permissible to hate anything but eternity.” This is what gives the crystals of time welded seams upon which present time is rendered imaginary, and where mental-subjective sonsigns are rendered inoperable and immobilized. (65)

Clairvoyance is the fabulation that haunts Sicilian verismo, a dialect and minor language striating itself. (66) Lampedusa stirred the magma of Sicily’s chaos, a movement that Visconti follows, and one that Deleuze reduces to the cliché of decomposition. As the plight of lyrical existence, the minor language of natural aristocracy and The Leopard‘s Sicily joyfully suffers this incommensurability as its amor fati.


J. Dudley Andrew, Concepts in Film Theory (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1984).

— “Roots of the Nomadic”, in Gregory Flaxman (Ed), The Brain Is the Screen: Deleuze and the Philosophy of Cinema (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2000).

Henry Bacon, Visconti: Explorations of Beauty and Decay (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998).

André Bazin, What is Cinema?, essays selected and translated by Hugh Gray (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1967).

Peter Canning, “The Imagination of Immanence: An Ethics of Cinema”, in Flaxman.

Luciano de Giusti, I Film di Luchino Visconti (Roma: Gremese Editore, 1985).

Bernard Dort, “Avatars du réalism viscontien”, Etudes cinématographique, Lettre Modernes, Fall, No. 26-27, Paris, 1963.

Les temps Modernes, No. 207-208, Paris, 1963.

Tessa Dwyer, “Straining to Hear (Deleuze)”, The South Atlantic Quarterly, Vol. 96, No. 3, Summer 1997.

Gregory Flaxman (Ed), The Brain Is the Screen: Deleuze and the Philosophy of Cinema (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2000).

David Gilmour, The Last Leopard: A Life of Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa (London: Quartet, 1988; New York: Pantheon Books, 1988).

Paul Griffiths, “Godard’s Mix of Movies and Music”, The New York Times, Sunday 2 July 2000.

Salvatore Guglielmo, Guida al Novecento: Profilo Letterario e Antologia (Milano: Principato Editore, 1971).

Youssef Ishaghpour, Visconti: Le sense et l’image (Paris: Editions de la Difference, 1984).

Fredric Jameson, Signatures of the Visible (New York: Routledge, 1992).

Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, Il Gattopardo (Milano: Feltrinelli Editore, 1958).

The Leopard, translated by Archibald Colquhoun (London: Collins and Harvill, 1960; New York: Pantheon Books, 1960).

Racconti (Milano: Feltrinelli Editore, 1961).

Two Stories and a Memory, translated by Archibald Colquhoun, with an introduction by E. M. Forster (London: The Harvill Press, 1962).

The Siren and Selected Writings, translated by Archibald Colquhoun, David Gilmour and Guido Waldman (London: The Harvill Press, 1995).

— “Perchè ho scritto Il Gattopardo”, L’Espresso, 8 Gennaio 1984.

Richard Dyer MacCann, Film: A Montage of Theories (New York: E. P. Dutton, 1996).

I. Margoni, “Il Gattopardo in Francia”, Belfagor, Anno XV, No. 5, Settembre 1960.

Geoffrey Nowell-Smith, Luchino Visconti (New York: Doubleday & Company, 1968).

John Rajchman, The Deleuze Connections (Cambridge: The MIT Press, 2000).

Gianni Rondolino, Luchino Visconti (Torino: Unione Tipografico-Editrice Torinese, 1981).

Luigi Russo, “Analisi del Gattopardo”, Belfagor, Anno XV, No. 5, Settembre 1960.

A. O. Scott, “Shoving Through the Crowd to Taste Lyrical Nostalgia”, The New York Times, Thursday 17 May 2001.

A. White, “Jean-Luc Godard”, Film, Vol. 32, No. 2, March-April 1966.


  1. The Leopard is a sweeping yet detailed rendition of the essence of Sicilian aristocratic history and familial structures on the verge of change. Part historical, part autobiographical, the novel, and Visconti’s closely adapted film, captures the overriding feudal immobility crystallized deep within the heart of change.
  2. Gilles Deleuze, Cinema 2: The Time-Image, translated by Hugh Tomlinson and Robert Galeta (Minnesota: University of Minnesota Press, 1989), p. 94.
  3. Another careless move that Deleuze makes is to group Visconti’s The Leopard with Morte a Venezia (Death in Venice, 1971), which does not follow its novella, and Gruppo di Famiglia in uno Interno (Conversation Piece, 1974), where the protagonist is not in touch as is the Prince with the illusion of progress or familial structures.
  4. In this group Deleuze also places Visconti’s Ludwig (1972), Senso (1954), L’Innocente (1976), Vaghe Stella dell’orsa (Sandra, 1965) and La Caduta degli Dei (The Damned, 1969). Deleuze is caught in a forced generalization.
  5. Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, The Leopard, translated by Archibald Colquhoun (London: London and Harvill, 1960; New York: Pantheon Books, 1960), p. 179.
  6. The Sicilian Baroque was Lampedusa’s touchstone.
  7. This was influenced by the film Ludwig. Along with this, The Leopard also does not work to show historical tendency, or its lack, as in Senso, but how histories are given a space to perform upon a Sicilian stage set by graceful, yet cynical accommodations (accomodamenti). Notice how Don Fabrizio speaks of the Jesuits, the Moslem imams, Swabian scribes and jurist of the most Catholic King who tried to canalize Sicily into the flow of universal history.
  8. Lampedusa, Il Gattopardo (Milano: Feltrinelli Editore, 1958), p. 205.
  9. Lampedusa, Il Gattopardo, p. 205.
  10. Cinema 2, p. 74.
  11. This position totally subverts Deleuze’s categorization of The Leopard.
  12. Béla Balázs in Richard Dyer MacCann, Film: A Montage of Theories (New York: E. P. Dutton, 1996), p. 138.
  13. Bernard Dort, Les temps Modernes, No. 207-208, Paris, 1963.
  14. Luigi Russo, “Analisi del Gattopardo”, Belfagor, Anno XV, No. 5, Settembre 1960, p. 515.
  15. Luciano de Giusti, I Film di Luchino Visconti (Roma: Gremese Editore, 1985), p. 91.
  16. As Prince Don Fabrizio says to Father Pirrone, “I have made important political discoveries. Do you know what happens in our country? Nothing happens.” (“Ho fatto importanti scoperti politiche. Sapete che succede nel nostro paese? Niente succede.”) This gains an atmospheric clarity in the description given by Prince Don Fabrizio, where “from the heights of this observatory the bluster of the one and the bloodthirstiness of the other merge into tranquil harmony. The true problem is how to go on living this life of the spirit in its most sublimated moments, most similar to death.” (“All’altezza di quest’ osservatorio le fanfaronate dell’uno, la sanguinarietà dell’altro si fondono in una tranquilla armonia. Il problema vero è di poter continuare a vivere questa vita dello spirito nei suoi momenti piú sublimati, piu simile alla morte.”) Lampedusa, Il Gattopardo, p. 56.
  17. Lampedusa, The Leopard, p. 155.
  18. As E. M. Forster noted, Il Gattopardo was “not a historical novel, but a novel which happens to take place in history” (Forster in David Gilmour, The Last Leopard: A Life of Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa (London: Quartet, 1988; New York: Pantheon Books, 1988), pp. 189, 209 n.28).
  19. Cinema 2, p. 74. Think of this as the epistrata and parastrata screens of perception’s memory running in continuous projections. When the optical image faces its virtual image, crystallization is obtained. This is due to the narrowing of the circuit of the optical image, where projection is rendered into a beam that instead of projecting burns itself into what it traverses.
  20. Does it take place in a temporality prey to the incommensurable distance between the individual and space as creations of gaps of time as in the works of Marcel Proust (Cinema 2, pp. 39, 82)? Lampedusa and Visconti shared this aspect of incommensurable distance with Proust, an aspect left underdeveloped by Deleuze (see Henry Bacon, Visconti: Explorations of Beauty and Decay (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998) and Gilmour). It is an aspect of the classical form of the novel, of Visconti’s novelistic cinema, and where individual action maintains itself in a situation of value while pondering “collective utterances as the prefiguration of the people who are missing” (Cinema 2, p. 224).
  21. Cinema 2, p. 81.
  22. Cinema 2, p. 68. Storytelling, or the time-as-series, the acts of legends, divided into noosigns as extendable worlds (seeds), and noosigns as integration of self-aware internal representation (mirrorings); and stratigraphic readings of visual images, are all unemployed in supporting the decomposition of the crystal (Cinema 2, pp. 274, 275, 279). Why? Because each would show how The Leopard in fact lends nothing to the concept of decomposition.
  23. Even the tripartite structure of the chronosign – order of time, genesign and lectosign – is part of this interaction/capture. These make up the internal power of the narrative.
  24. Cinema 2, p. 333 n.23.
  25. The oblique mirror where no outside subsists.
  26. Either actual or virtual images.
  27. Cinema 2, pp. 92, 296 n.34.
  28. Cf. Geoffrey Nowell-Smith, Luchino Visconti (New York: Doubleday & Company, 1968), p. 101. Deleuze is closer to the mark of decomposition with the mention of films such as Ludwig, Senso, The Damned and L’Innocente.
  29. Visconti also arrived at a primordial impulse because he was, like Lampedusa, an aristocrat and concerned with time (Cinema 1: The Movement-Image, translated by Hugh Tomlinson and Barbara Habberjam (Minnesota: University of Minnesota Press, 1986), p. 133).
  30. Cinema 2, p. 165.
  31. Cinema 2, pp. 167-8.
  32. Nowell-Smith, p. 103.
  33. John Rajchman, The Deleuze Connections (Cambridge: The MIT Press, 2000), p. 82; cf. Tessa Dwyer, “Straining to Hear (Deleuze)”, The South Atlantic Quarterly, Vol. 96, No. 3, Summer 1997, p. 556; J. Dudley Andrew, “Roots of the Nomadic”, in Gregory Flaxman (Ed), The Brain Is the Screen: Deleuze and the Philosophy of Cinema (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2000), pp. 246, 249 n.58; Fredric Jameson, Signatures of the Visible (New York: Routledge, 1992), p. 173.
  34. Rajchman, p. 10.
  35. This is also present in the actual working habits of Tomasi di Lampedusa (see Gilmour, p. 129).
  36. Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, translated by Brian Massumi (Minnesota: University of Minnesota Press, 1987), pp. 104-10.
  37. Notice the becoming-woman of Angelica, in Don Ciccio’s education, in Tancredi’s political ambition and in Don Calogero’s social ascent.
  38. Flaxman (Ed), p. 3.
  39. Deleuze, Cinema 1, p. 123.
  40. Nowell-Smith, p. 106; A. O. Scott, “Shoving Through the Crowd to Taste Lyrical Nostalgia”, The New York Times, Thursday 17 May 2001.
  41. In Visconti’s words, “I was drawn by that extraordinary character, that is, Prince Fabrizio di Salina. I was passionately stirred by the critical polemics on the content of the novel […] maybe this was what pushed me to accept the offer to realize the film” (Visconti, Paese Sera Libri, Roma, 19 April 1963).
  42. Cinema 2, p. 171.
  43. Cinema 2, p. 159; Bacon, pp. 90-91.
  44. André Bazin, What is Cinema?, essays selected and translated by Hugh Gray (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1967), p. 26.
  45. As far as the method used for the filming of The Leopard, one must substitute the term “montage”, which is an indirect image of time, with the “tracking-shot”, and then Bazin’s statement would better capture Visconti’s filmmaking, and faithfulness to his source (Gilles Delueze, Negotiations 1972-1990, translated by Martin Joughlin (New York: Columbia University Press, 1997), p. 58). The prose and structure of Lampedusa’s novel work in the same way.
  46. Visconti in Gianni Rondolino, Luchino Visconti (Torino: Unione Tipografico-Editrice Torinese, 1981), pp. 441-2.
  47. “The cinema is always narrative, and more and more narrative, but it is dysnarrative in so far as narrative is affected by repetitions, permutations and transformation which are explicable in detail by the new structure” (Cinema 2, p. 137).
  48. Cinema 2, p. 131.
  49. Cinema 2, p. 147.
  50. Cinema 2, pp. 76, 77.
  51. “Every moment of our life presents two aspects, it is actual and virtual, perception on the one side and recollection on the other […] Whoever becomes conscious of the continual duplicating of his present into perception and recollection […] will compare himself to an actor playing his part automatically, listening to himself and beholding himself playing” (Henri Bergson in Cinema 2, pp. 79, 294 n.19). This was profoundly experienced by Visconti. 50 percent of his realized films and eight out of twelve of his unrealized films are close adaptations (Visconti called them “adopting”) of well-established works of literature. To miss this is to overlook a major rule of the game that Visconti is playing. While five of these closely adopted films, along with what Visconti would have done with Proust’s A la recherche du temps perdu, are cited by Deleuze in the chapter, “The crystals of time”, this literary aspect was completely overlooked (Cinema 2, pp. 94-7, 296 n.37). Part of Visconti’s literary reliance was due to his apprenticeship under Jean Renoir and his earlier viewing of Renoir’s film Toni (1935). Visconti saw Toni as being very close to the work of Giovanni Verga. As the narrative structures of Emile Zola and Guy de Maupassant helped Jean Renoir “re-orient the style of world cinema in the 1930s” (Andrew, p. 105), Visconti cannot be divorced from a distinctive representational cinema. His is a novelistic cinema of cultural communion and mimesis. Visconti’s adaptation of Verga’s I Malavoglia in La Terra Trema (The Earth Trembles, 1947) and Lampedusa’s Il Gattopardo reoriented much of Italian cinema by turning back to its becoming-minor of the language of its literature.
  52. Include here even the fighting between the Borbonici and Garibaldini. While some Italian reviewers were critical of Visconti’s dependency on the novel (Ugo Casiraghi, Guido Aristarco), Alberto Moravia saw The Leopard as Visconti’s “most balanced, measured, pure and accurate” film. See Youssef Ishaghpour, Visconti: Le sense et l’image (Paris: Editions de la Difference, 1984), pp. 43-5; Bazin, pp. 67-8; de Giusti, pp. 99-100.
  53. Visconti stated: “It may sound obvious but I have often asked myself, as there is a solid literary tradition which in hundreds of novels and stories has realized in fantasy such genuine and pure ‘truths’ about human life, why should cinema, which in its more exterior access to life could actually be documentary, complacently accustom the audience to petty plotting and pompous melodrama the mechanical logic of which protects the spectator from the risks of whim and invention. In such a situation it becomes natural for those who sincerely believe in the cinema to turn there eyes nostalgically to the grand narrative structures of European literature and to think of them as the truest source of inspiration of our time. It is good to have the courage to say ‘truest’ even though some people might label it as impotence or at least as lack in cinematic purity.” (Visconti, “Tradizione ed invenzione”, in Stile, Milano, Vol. VII, Winter 1941).
  54. Cinema 2: The Time-Image, p. 191.
  55. Bazin, p. 69; Cinema 2: The Time-Image, p. 191.
  56. Among them one counts Giovanni Verga, Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, Guy de Maupassant (with Visconti as assistant director to Renoir), J. M. Cain, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Giovanni Testori, Thomas Mann, Albert Camus and even Gabriele D’Annunzio. These authors were as integral to Visconti’s realized films, and this does not include five other authors upon which unrealized films in various stages of production were based. Father Pirrone’s explanation of the world of the aristocrat also applies to the aristocrat as filmmaker and novelist. Their nobility is hard to understand, and “whose laws we are unable to grasp”, especially when cut from their world. In the words of the Prince, “we are blind, dear Padre, we are only men […] we live in a mobile reality in which we seek to adapt as algae folding under the pressure of the sea.” (Lampedusa, Il Gattopardo, p. 55).
  57. Notice the turn of Tancredi and Count Cavriaghi (Terrence Hill) from Garibaldini to soldiers of the King’s army, and how they are equally accommodated within the house of Salina.
  58. Cinema 2: The Time-Image, p. 3.
  59. Negotiations 1972-1990, p. 143.
  60. There is an unchanging pattern throughout The Leopard that resembles what Deleuze sees in the works of Yasujiro Ozu. Even Deleuze’s thought that violence leads to the rising of originary time is tripped up in this Sicilian narrative, which is the preternatural vision of the cicatrix of accumulated images-at-rest, l’immobilism feudale, religious rites, politics, marital relations, friendships and time. Visconti is concerned with time, but not as the idea of “decomposition”, rather of what creates time in narration. Decomposition is a cliché of this fabulation structure, interrupting its movement, but ending up freezing it in time.
  61. Cinema 2, p. 81.
  62. Cinema 1, p. 123; Andrew, p. 238; Gilmour, pp. 116, 119, 123-4.
  63. Nowell-Smith, p. 117 n.4.
  64. Notice the lintels, door jams and thresholds.
  65. This is what Deleuze would call the “instats” (Cinema 2, p. 6). This is also part of the “too-late”.
  66. Peter Canning, “The Imagination of Immanence: An Ethics of Cinema”, in Flaxman (Ed), pp. 340, 354, 362 n.51. As Visconti stated, “neither Verga, nor Pirandello, nor De Roberto have said all there is of the Italian historical drama lived from that determinant visual angle that is constituted from the great, complex and engaging Sicilian reality […] Tomasi di Lampedusa has in a certain sense completed that discourse” (Visconti in Rondolino, p. 434).

About The Author

Lucio Angelo Privitello is a Professor in the Department of Philosophy and Religion at The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey.

Related Posts