Movie Inspiration of the week – Il Gattopardo (1963)

Without Sicily, Italy creates no image in the soul: here is the key to everything.


Costume Designer Piero Tosi. His work can be admired in luminous films by such directors as Luchino Visconti, Vittorio De Sica and Franco Zeffirelli.  Tosi earned five Academy Award nominations during his career and an Academy Honory Award in 2013. His designs brought elegance, artistry, passion and, dare I say, a mastery of fantasmagoria and nostalgia, and even humour  to neo-realist dramas, historical romances and farsical comedies, including Senso, Death in Venice (BAFTA Award for Best Costume Design), The DamnedLa Traviata (BAFTA Award for Best Costume Design) and La Cage Aux Folles.


Martin Scorsese, who restored this 1963 classic to its former glory and brought it back to Cannes in 2010, has often referred to “The Leopard” as one of the five best films ever made, having live [d] with this movie every day of [his] life. One of director Luchino Visconti’s handful of masterpieces, the film features subtle, visual storytelling in a world of decaying opulence, with its “deeply measured tone … its use of vast spaces and also the richness of every detail.” .


As far as costume design goes, this is a true masterpiece. Tosi was born in Florence amid art, and studied at Florence’s Accademia di Belle Arti.  Both his appreciation for art and his knowledge of art’s history as a living and breathing heritage is evident in the design of his costumes (Christian Esquevin)


 The extraordinary, verging on obsessive, collaboration between Piero Tosi and Umberto Tirelli , the tailor whose fate led him to create not for men but their representations, created a magnificent work of art through costume. Something like 2,000 costumes were made for this film. Visconti was one of the most meticulous Italian directors, he loved historical accuracy and had a great attention to details. Tirelli often remembered him working together with the costume designers, picking the colours for the costumes, studying the silhouettes and the shapes, sampling the fabrics and checking upon the work made by the tailoring houses (Anna Battista).


The ball scene, where new and old Italy come face to face with each other,  takes about one-third of the total length of the movie and took a whole month to film, involving around 200 people in 14 interconnected rooms. 400 costumes were made for this scene alone, the most celebrate of which is, of course, the magnificent organza ball gown worn by Claudia Cardinale /Angelica Sedara.


Il Gattopardo, an epic adaptation of Giuseppe de Lampedusa’s novel about an aristocratic Sicilian family’s adjustment to a changing way of life during the Risorgimento (1815-1871, the novel itself opens in 1860) is a tale of melancholy and change, a testimony of social avalanche, Art embodying History.


Those were the best days in the life of Tancredi and Angelica, lives later to be so variegated, so erring, against the inevitable background of sorrow. But that they did not know then; and they were pursuing a future which they deemed more concrete than it turned out to be, made of nothing but smoke and wind.

Giuseppe Di Lampedusa, The Leopard: A Novel


All Sicilian sensuality is a hankering for oblivion … that is the cause of the well-known time lag of a century in our artistic and intellectual life; novelties attract us only when they are dead.

Giuseppe Di Lampedusa, The Leopard: A Novel

Fabrizio and Jean Baptiste Greuze’s The Punished Son (1778)

Do you really think, Chevalley, that you are the first who has hoped to canalise Sicily into the flow of universal history? I wonder how many Moslem Imams, how many of King Roger’s knights, how many Swabian scribes, how many Angevin barons, how many jurists of the Most Catholic King have conceived the same fine folly; and how many Spanish viceroys too, how many of Charles III’s reforming functionaries! And who knows now what happened to them all! Sicily wanted to sleep in spite of their invocations; for why should she listen to them if she herself is rich, if she’s wise, if she’s civilized, if she’s honest, if she’s admired and envied by all, if, in a word, she is perfect?

Giuseppe Di Lampedusa, The Leopard: A Novel


If we want things to stay as they are, things will have to change

Giuseppe Di Lampedusa, The Leopard: A Novel

Dolce and Gabbana Alta Moda 2015

Everyone is either a fairy or princess.

Stefano Gabbana

Dolce and Gabbana Alta Moda 2015


Look at all this beauty, truth and emotion, created from nothing but words. Just words. How can you possibly spend your life not trying to do the same?

Giuseppe Di Lampedusa, The Leopard: A Novel

Tosi and Tirelli magnificently bring to life the glamorous, sensual and desperate  characters in Lampedusa’s novel. This is also, a portrait of the “lost South” or as Jonathan Jones so eloquently put it Lampedusa’s Sicily is a place where the optimistic, progressive, rational forces of history as viewed in the 19th century – the march of liberal democracy and of socialism alike – get lost in baroque back streets at midnight. As a myth, as a fiction of history, The Leopard will continue to ensnare minds, and not only in Italy. Lampedusa’s despair is not so different from that of today’s world, with its shrunken political expectations. We are all Sicilians now.


Goethe, Martin Scorsese, Giuseppe Di Lampedusa,

Photos via and

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