Saturday, July 19, 2008

Rocco and His Brothers

Rocco e i suoi fratelli; Drama, Italy/ France, 1960; D: Luchino Visconti, S: Alain Delon, Renato Salvatori, Annie Girardot, Katina Paxinou, Spiros Focas, Max Cartier, Suzy Delair, Claudia Cardinale

The old Rosaria arrives from an primitive village in Sicily to the fancy city of Milan with their adult children Rocco, Simone, Chiro and Luca to go live in the apartment of their brother Vincenzo. But since they didn't announce their visit, the family of Vincenzo's fiance Ginetta throws them all out on the street. The find an apartment, earn money by cleaning snow or finding occasional jobs. Simone finds a job as a boxer and starts a relationship with prostitute Nadia, but she leaves him for Rocco, who joined the army. In an act of rage, Simone rapes Nadia in front of him. Figuring how much she means to him, Rocco persuades Nadia to go back to Simone. When the family decides to loan Simone money in order to repay his debts, but just so that he can leave the town, he stabs Nadia to death. He is later dies himself.

Luchino Visconti already started to fall really deep into mannerism and pretentiousness when he directed "Rocco and his Brothers" that unreasonably lasted for whole 3 hours, but he was still able to craft a very worthy piece of Italian neorealism that offers deep character development and social commentary. Even though it at first seems it will unfold as a family drama, the family elements are quickly pushed in the background and replaced by a grey, tragic picture of rural, backward workers not able to blend in with the new mentality of the urban, modern environment they enter. The best example appears right after the exposition, where the old mother Rosaria arrives - without any announcement - with her 4 children from Sicily right into the apartment of her grown up "child" Vincenzo, which triggers an argument by the mother of his girlfriend Ginetta who considers them rude, primitive and backward. For all it's flaws, the movie is really brave and has a powerful style, resorting even to drastic moments (for those times), like when the coach says to the boxer Simone he shouldn't "fool around with women before a boxing match to keep his legs strong" or when Simone rapes Nadia in front of Rocco (great Alain Delon). The actors are all fine, but they were all overshadowed by Annie Girardot, who was simply fabulous as energetic prostitute Nadia who presents her works as a "passion", for which she was nominated for a BAFTA as best actress.


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