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in elegant decay

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Italian cinema has fundamentally been nostalgic in character. More than just about any other country in Europe, Italy maintains a direct connection to its ancient past, most vividly in the ongoing veneration of the papacy, the thousand-year old frescoes and the ancient roads that still lead to Rome. Accordingly, the great films from Italy have shown a society always conscious of its own state of decay. In Luchino Visconti's THE LEOPARD, the story isn't about the 1860s Garibaldi revolt but about the decline of a gentle, benevolent landed family in Sicily. In a film filled with beautiful images, there may be no more breathtaking shot than the one of the aristocratic clan gathered in a country church, each sitting motionlessly as if embalmed. Part of the N.C. Museum of Art's Winter Film Series; Friday, Jan. 13 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $5, $3.50 for students.

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