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The setting for Conversation Piece is a handsome old Roman palazzo owned by a Professor (Burt Lancaster), an aging, American-born, Roman bred art historian who devotes his life to his books, his paintings, and his stereo recordings of Mozart. His life is turned upside down when his house and his intellectual life is invaded by a rich, pushy, overdressed marquesa, played by Silvana Mangano, the wife of a Fascist industrialist, and her teen-age daughter (Claudia Marsani), her young German lover (Helmut Berger) and her daughter's lover (Stefano Patrizi). These four characters are able to persuade the Professor to lease them his upstairs apartment for a year and what unfolds is a truly revealing exploration of the idle rich and the humble intellectual.