Senso, starring Alida Valli, Farley Granger and Heinz Moog. Directed by Luchino Visconti. (From the Criterion Collection.) 2010. Library Call Number: PN1995.9.L6S46 2010.
Senso has something for foreign movie lovers, designers and cinema buffs. Luchino Visconti’s lavish historical romance takes place in 1866 Venice, occupied by the Austrian Army of the Hapsburg Empire. All is not well, however, and the Italians are uniting to drive the invaders off of their native soil. During a performance of Verdi’s Il Travatore, Venetian patriots inundate the Austrian officers in the floor seats with tri-color bouquets and handbills and several are arrested. In the midst of this political turmoil, the Contessa Livia Serpieri, troubled and distraught over her bad marriage, falls for an Austrian lieutenant. Heedless of consequences, they begin an affair as the rebellion ignites.
Valli, as the Contessa, delivers a charismatic performance and Visconti was smart enough to make her the focus of nearly every scene. The costuming and lush scenery are unequaled and won the film a Golden Lion on its release in 1954. The Criterion Collection’s restoration includes all of the vibrant color, the English language version The Wanton Countess, as well as the full 123 minute original director’s cut, that recreated the Battle of Custozza, deleted from the original release in its homeland because it depicted an Italian defeat.