card04.jpgFor two weeks only, Film Forum brings Luchino Visconti's masterwork The Leopard (1963), in its recently restored Criterion 35 mm print to their screens starting today, and Gothamist urges you to run don't walk to one of the screenings. Originally cut and dubbed in English for the American release, this new print of the 1980 restoration puts the film back to its 180 minutes running time as well as its original Super Technirama aspect ratio of 2.21:1.

A highlight in the all-around stunning output of films from Italy during the '60s, Luchino Visconti made the historical costume drama to trump all other historical costume dramas with Il Gattopardo. His slavish attention to detail and sumptuous production design are alone reasons to revel in this movie on the big screen, but then you also have great performances by Burt Lancaster, Claudia Cardinale and Alain Delon (the Hunky One in the mustache on the poster) to keep you mesmerized as well.

Lancaster plays the Prince of Salina, an Italian aristocrat during the Risorgimento, a moment in Italy's history when the aristocracy was going way out of style thanks to Garibaldi and his supporters. Salina's nephew (Delon) represents the younger generation who contains all of Italy's Socialist idealism, and as Salina symbolically hands over things to him, there's a palpable sense of Salina's nostalgia for the fading past. The movie culminates in a 45 minute bravura ball sequence where Visconti's camera weaves through the crowd of revelers picking out details like the room filled with chamber pots, and whose influence can be seen in Martin Scorsese's movies.

The Leopard runs through August 26. It's also now available on Criterion DVD in a three disk (!) set with the usual Criterion plethora of geeked-out extras.