Visconti's wondrous mood piece is an Elektra story of incestuous passions and family secrets, set in the crumbling Italian city of Volterra. Claudia Cardinale brings her new American husband home to meet her mother and brother on a very particular occasion: a memorial is being unveiled for her father, who died at Auschwitz. It isn't the ghosts of the dead that haunt this home, however, but the secrets of the living. “Ours is not a normal atmosphere,” her mother declares ominously, hinting of “secret vices,” both hers (she may have denounced her husband to the Nazis) and her children's (they may have been in love, may still be). With a tale so ripe that the actors should be singing, not speaking, the ever-iconoclastic Visconti heads towards a Romantic ideal of emotion as narrative, and repression as the greatest spectacle.

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