Conversation Piece

Director: Luchino Visconti
Year Released: 1974
Rating: 3.0

Chamber drama done just right: a professor (Burt Lancaster) living a lonely existence in Italy has his life disrupted by a wealthy woman (Silvana Mangano) who forcibly buys the upstairs apartment for her secret lover (and political radical) Konrad (Helmut Berger) ... and Lancaster's character becomes infatuated with him.  Late period Visconti (which includes Ludwig and Death in Venice) is fascinating in how his secret passions (all forms of decadence) really come to the forefront, and Lancaster plays a variation on Mann's Aschenbach as he witnesses Konrad engaging in a three-way orgy (which includes a then underage Claudia Marsani) and later helps "hide" him in a secret room (Konrad's final letter to him is signed "your son," which only makes it all weirder).  There's almost nothing "subtle" about it - even the new apartment gets decorated in a "modern" style, complete with Rothko paintings - except for Lancaster, whose melancholy keeps it anchored.