One: much is made of the casting of Burt Lancaster as the old prince. The short answer has to be: he looks the part even if he sounds ridiculous. The overlooked point is that the old prince was a figure of legend and enchantment to the author himself long before he became a literary archetype. Lampedusa was born in 1896; the events of the story take place during the Risorgimento, around 1860. Take a look at the picture of the old prince in David Gilmour's splendid biography of Lampedusa, and you can see in as flash that the whole business is a fairy tale: the old man in the picture is plump and ridiculous, not remotely the kind of character that deserves to be played by anybody with washboard abs. But that's fine: treat it as legend and it works. Might be fun to watch the dubbed Italian version to see if it offers anything different.
Two: there is a kind of epic style of moviemaking that seems inescapable for this kind of family saga. Seen in this light, Il Gattopardo reminds me of nothing so much as Sunshine, István Szabó's film saga of a Hungarian Jewish family caught up in the cruel politics of the 20th Century. Both of them sketch their pictures with Crayola strokes; you've just got to accept the convention and stipulate to enjoy.
I repeat that I liked Il Gattopardo. Yet I yield to the temptation to repeat a remarkable piece of film criticism--David Thompson's savaging of Visconti's directorial career. "It certainly is true," says Thompson,
that on the international art house circuit Visconti's flamboyant treatment of a few prestigious ventures passed for respectability. If there was a Nobel prize for cinema, Visconti would have had it long ago; he was as deserving as Steinbeck, and he was very social.Thompson does concede that it is a "splendid art-house package, with dazzling production values, meticulous if unsurprising acting and well-signposted significance." Fair comment, I'd say, but "worthy of Nobel prize"--oooh, that hurts.
Fn.: Wiki makes an interesting point on the translation of "gattopardo" (link).