THE INNOCENT or L'INNOCENTE. (1976) DIRECTED BY LUCHINO VISCONTI (THE LEOPARD, THE DAMNED, DEATH IN VENICE, ROCCO AND HIS BROTHERS).
WRITTEN BY LUCHINO VISCONTI AND SUSO CECCHI D'AMICO. BASED ON THE NOVEL BY GABRIELE D'ANNUNZIO.
STARRING GIANCARLO GIANNINI (CASINO ROYALE, QUANTUM OF SOLACE, HANNIBAL), LAURA ANTONELLI AND JENNIFER O'NEILL.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©
Well, well. The double standard is alive and well amongst the high-born aristocracy of nineteenth century Italy, or so it would appear from this utterly magnificent cinematic tour de force by acclaimed director Luchino Visconti. Sadly, Visconti died as the film was nearing completion, but it is to be hoped that he died happy knowing that he was leaving such a matchless legacy to the world.
Back to that double standard we spoke of earlier. Tullio Hermil, a handsome Italian nobleman of seemingly unlimited wealth (inherited from his parents rather than earned by the sweat of his brow, I'll wager), is quite the ladies' man. Quite the Casanova. Quite the Lover Boy. A veritable Jack-The-Lad of the Victorian era, as it were.
Throughout his marriage to the beautiful but deeply unhappy Giuliana, he's flaunted his mistresses in her face and expected her to be understanding and endlessly patient after the fashion of wives in those days. She seems to have suffered many humiliations, the poor woman.
Why would Tullio go out for hamburgers when he's quite obviously got a grand juicy bit of fillet steak at home? Because he's stupid and he's a man and he's ruled by his trouser-brain and not by his head-brain, I suppose. Why else? His latest mistress is the absolutely drop-dead gorgeous Countess Teresa Raffo. She's young, free and single (widowed, I think) and she wants Tullio for herself, the horny little hussy.
While Tullio is off romancing the highly-sexed Countess, the unthinkable happens. Well, it's unthinkable in Tullio's book anyway. Giuliana, who's every bit as beautiful and sexy as the Countess but less flashy, takes a lover of her own. That double standard we mentioned earlier comes into play as this shock revelation hits Tullio right where it hurts him the most... right in his badly wounded male pride...
Tullio decides then and there that he wants to hold onto his marriage and his missus. Isn't that always the way it goes? You never miss your water till your well runs dry. Tullio disrespected his wife and his marriage vows because he thought he was safe to do so.
When it's been made clear to him that his lovely wife has been secretly playing him at his own game, he's even willing to give up his ravishing mistress in order to win Giuliana back. But there are serious and very real consequences to one of their extra-marital affairs. Patching up his damaged and fragile marriage may be a more uphill task than the arrogant and cocky Signor Tullio first thought...
THE INNOCENT is so beautifully shot and the plot so riveting that I never took my eyes off it for a second the whole time it was on. As a woman and a born romantic to boot, I loved that the film was all about the relationships between the three main characters and nothing, neither politics nor war nor anything else, gets in the way of that. It just gives you all the good stuff with no distractions, in a way that few films do.
It was like watching a superb two-hour soap opera where everyone is sleeping with everyone else, and the sets are so lavish and richly-coloured you could easily be looking at a collection of paintings in a gallery.
The womens' dresses are all fantastic and make their boobs look humongous and as for the interior furnishings, well, ooh la la, they're all just out of this world. The chaises-longues, the drapes, the carpets, the bookcases are all stunningly beautiful and have obviously been carefully chosen for their luxurious opulence.
The whole film has a rich, opulent feel to it. It's a sensual, sexy heady kind of film as well. When Tullio and Giuliana make love in the Villa Lilla, or when Tullio starts to undress Teresa for sex in front of the fire in his own home, I was completely caught up in the romance and sexiness of it all.
I was really annoyed when the film ended and I realised I was at home and hadn't yet done the ironing or the washing-up. Of course, in the film they had servants to do all that kind of thing. Sigh. I guess I was born in the wrong era. I'd have made a great layabout aristo. If I'd lived in the time of
the French Revolution, my head would've been the first into that basket, haha.
The film tackles some serious moral issues as well, when Tullio tries to pressure one of his women to do something that their conscience could never allow them to do. Be prepared for some distressing scenes and a truly shocking and unexpected climax as all of Tullio's chickens come home to roost.
The actual final scene has been described as one of the most beautiful in cinema's history. It's breath-taking. It's pictured on the front of the DVD box, as a matter of fact, and speaking of which, here comes the hard sell.
This magnificent opus is out on special release at the moment courtesy of CultFilms and AIM PUBLICITY. It comes with an exclusive documentary in which two friends and co-workers of the director's, Giorgio Treves and Renata Francheschi, talk at length about the making of this film and the kind of director Visconti was.
Renata Franceschi, in particular, seems to have been Visconti's assistant and close friend for many years and she talks of the great man with boundless affection and even, at times, tears. Check out what she has to stay about the beautifully poignant opening titles of the film and how they came to be in there, and also about Visconti's overwhelming love for all things cultural.
You can see how much he loves his culture in the film, what with all the Mozart and the Liszt and stuff. Ah yes, the bad boys of their day, haha. Chucking pianofortes out of hotel windows and smashing their lutes and impregnating horny duchesses and suchlike.
Renata also tells a terrific story about how the film's other writer, Suso Cecchi D'Amico, had a problem with some of the male nudity in the movie and Renata, still reeling from the recent death of Visconti, had to take it out of the film's final edit herself.
Don't worry though, folks. You can still see the willy in question perfectly clearly, so that's all right, haha. And there are boobies too and also, rather shockingly, a glimpse of something you never really see any more... female armpit hair...!
The film is exceptional for its accurate and insightful portrayal of human sexual relationships. Tullio is the typical 'dog in the manger' when it comes to his wife. He may not be terribly interested in her himself, but the minute another guy comes sniffing around his hackles go up and he bares his teeth and protects his territory like nobody's business.
One surefire way of getting a guy's interest seems to be to have another guy expressing an interest as well. Remember that, ladies. Also remember, however, that there are some guys who still wouldn't make a move if you put a firecracker under them. Guys are funny creatures. You just never know with them which way things are gonna go. That's why I don't try any more, haha. Too much bloody trouble...!
Anyway, be sure and pick up your copy of this gorgeous film. Later on in the month, on April 24th 2017, to be precise, CultFilms and AIM PUBLICITY will be releasing another fabulous film, this time Vittorio DeSica's UMBERTO D. More about that one closer to the time. Till we meet again, movie fans...
AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens' fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra's books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:
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