Luchino Visconti's last film is haunting and sad, the final work from a major filmmaker who saw a way of life vanishing with his passing. Set in Italy in the early 1900s, The Innocent tells the story of Tullio Hermil (Giancarlo Giannini), a domineering, sexually rapacious patriarch who is married to Giuliana (Laura Antonelli), whom he mistreats on a daily basis. His mistress Teresa Raffo (Jennifer O'Neill) manipulates Tullio to her own ends, in a tragic tale of a dying aristocracy. When Tullio's wife, in desperation, turns to the arms of another for love and solace, she becomes pregnant, and Tullio is devastated. Now, he is a cuckold in the eyes of the world, when in fact, his own sexual jealousy and misogyny have brought about this sad state of affairs. Visconti's merciless mise-en-scène dissects his characters as if they were insects under a microscope; as he grew older as a director, Visconti's seemingly natural antipathy to human weakness became almost his signature style. The film is operatic, grand, and yet deeply intimate and personal, making it simultaneously one of Visconti's most accomplished and most disheartening films.
by Wheeler Winston Dixon review