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European Film  
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Perhaps Visconti's most important contribution to gay cinema is Morte a Venezia (A Death in Venice, 1971), an adaptation of Thomas Mann's classic homoerotic novella. The film tells the story of Aschenbach, a vain but aging composer, who travels to Venice to rest after a period of artistic and personal stress. A man obsessed with an ideal of beauty and perfection, Aschenbach becomes entranced with a beautiful young boy, Tadzio. Although only intending to stay at the Venetian resort for a short time, the composer invents reasons for prolonging his holiday, despite the threat of a deadly outbreak of cholera. Aschenbach lingers in the city and courts his own demise in his quest to understand the meaning of perfection.

Other notable films by Visconti include his first feature, Ossessione (1942), an unauthorized version of the James M. Cain novel The Postman Always Rings Twice. Visconti subtly portrays the friendship between the young drifter Gino and a street magician as a one-way gay romance. For example, in one scene, the two men are together in bed and the street magician strikes a match to survey Gino's handsome face as he sleeps.

Rocco e i suoi fratelli (Rocco and His Brothers, 1960) looks at Southern Italian peasants who relocate to Milan in search of economic stability. The film includes a subplot involving a boxing promoter who pays young men for sex.

Il gattopardo (The Leopard, 1963), one of Visconti's most acclaimed films, chronicles the decline of the Sicilian aristocracy during the Risorgimento, the nineteenth-century movement that led to the unification of Italy, a subject close to Visconti's own family history.

Visconti explored the rise of Nazism in La caduta degli dei (The Damned, 1969), a portrait of the disintegration of a German industrialist family during the Third Reich. Homoeroticism is rampant in the film. Helmut Berger, as the German industrialist's grandson and successor, makes his first appearance in the film in full Marlene Dietrich drag; an explicit gay orgy precedes a scene depicting the Night of the Long Knives, June 30, 1934, when Hitler purged the party of his homosexual associate Ernst Röhm and some 300 other members of the "Brown Shirts." The stylized decadence depicted by Visconti was of such graphic intensity that the film was originally released in the United States with an X rating.

Ludwig (1972) is Visconti's film biography of the nineteenth century homosexual "mad" King Ludwig II of Bavaria. The film includes a portrayal of the aging king's obsession with a handsome young actor and features an all-male orgy reminiscent of the one in The Damned. The 1974 film Gruppo di famiglia in un interno (Conversation Piece), is a culmination of the themes that run through most of Visconti's films: the disintegration of family, the decay of traditional values, and the obsessive pursuit of beauty.

Poet, painter, playwright, essayist, and novelist, Pier Paolo Pasolini is best known outside of Italy as a filmmaker. Indeed, Pasolini is considered one of the most significant directors to emerge in the second wave of Italian cinema in the 1960s. Although politically radical and openly gay, Pasolini infrequently addressed homosexuality in his films.

Pasolini's first film, Accattone (1961), adapted from his own novel Una vita violenta (A Violent Life), is a realistic depiction of the life of an accattone, or pimp, in Rome's petty-criminal underworld. The film's sympathetic attitudes toward its amoral characters caused an immediate uproar; Italian authorities originally sought to ban the film outright, but eventually allowed a release restricted to adults only.

His next film, Mamma Roma (1962), with Anna Magnani in the lead role, explores similar territory, and centers on a woman who is fatefully drawn back to her former life as a prostitute. This film, too, attracted official censure for "offending against the common sense of decency," but was finally released after lengthy legal proceedings.

Pasolini once again courted public outrage and legal battles with his third film, La ricotta. Pasolini was invited to contribute an episode to the 1963 compendium film titled RoGoPaG (named after the four contributing directors: Rossellini, Godard, Pasolini, and Gregoretti). In Pasolini's short film, a petty criminal finds work as an extra on a film about the life of Christ. When he is cast as one of the thieves crucified with Christ, he, ironically, suffers from a fatal case of indigestion and actually dies while on the cross. Italian authorities considered the film an "outrage against the established religion"; Pasolini was consequently tried for blasphemy and received a three-month suspended sentence. A significantly edited version of Pasolini's film was eventually allowed to be released.

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