During November and December of 2017, the Cleveland Institute of Art Cinematheque presented digital restorations or 35-mm prints of five films by the late Italian filmmaker Luchino Visconti. Since then, a complete Visconti retrospective, put together by Istituto Luce Cinecitt in Rome, has come to North America and is traveling to various museums and cinematheques, including the Cleveland Institute of Art Cinematheque, where it'll land this week.
"I always wanted to show his films, but I realized that a lot of them are exceedingly long and that it'd be tough to cram them into a two-month calendar and still show other things too," explains Cinematheque director John Ewing. "After we showed those films last year, I got the Harvard Film Archives schedule and saw this series that this outfit from Rome, a quasi-government agency, was bringing back to the U.S. The Harvard Film Archives were doing the whole thing. I looked at the schedule and saw an opportunity for us to get in and sent an email to Rome. We're showing two of his best films, The Leopard and Death in Venice, which we did not show in the previous series. It came together nicely, and the timing was right."
The Cinematheque will also screen The Stranger, Visconti's film based upon the famous Albert Camus book. It took an extra bit of effort to get that movie onto the schedule.
"The Stranger isn't supposed to be one of his best films, but it's been on my bucket list," says Ewing. "It's been nearly impossible to get. We had to get permission from the Camus estate. I thought that would be a sticking point, but lo and behold, we got it. The Film Archives at Berkeley had a sold-out screening of the movie, and they're thinking of bringing it back. I don't know how many places are showing it. To me, that was one of the ones that I was proudest to get."
The retrospective includes important Visconti rarities that aren't distributed in the U.S. as well as some of his most famous works. The eight films included in the series, dubbed Encore! The Operatic Films of Luchino Visconti, span the neo-realist era, which Visconti helped to launch, and include the "overstuffed, all-star, international co-productions" that flourished in Italy after WWII.
The series kicks off on Friday with a screening of 1971's Death in Venice and concludes on Feb. 23 with a screening of The Innocent, which is currently unavailable in the States.
Consult the Cinematheque website, cia.edu/cinematheque, for a full schedule.