Sunday, May 2, 2021

Saint Rocco

Rocco e i suoi fratelli/Rocco and His Brothers (1960) - Visconti Screen Shot 2021-05-01 at 11.08.56 PM Screen Shot 2021-05-01 at 11.10.57 PM Screen Shot 2021-05-01 at 11.12.14 PM Screen Shot 2021-05-01 at 11.19.56 PM Screen Shot 2021-05-01 at 11.20.57 PM Screen Shot 2021-05-01 at 11.01.38 PM Screen Shot 2021-05-01 at 11.07.10 PM Screen Shot 2021-05-01 at 11.15.41 PM Epic melodrama about changing times and a family's disintegration told in Dostoevskian flair. It tells the 5 Parondi brothers, an impoverished farmers from the southern Italy moving to the bustling industrious city of Milan with their beloved, devoted matriarch of the family (Katrina Paxinou). Shot in crisp monochrome and on location, Rocco has the look and feel of Italian neorealist cinema. Vincente the oldest, has settled in and married a girl (Claudia Cardinale in one of her first roles) his mother doesn't really approve (her family mostly) and doesn't really want to deal with family matters, Simone (Renato Salvatori), is a brute who gets into boxing but falls victim to the lure of the city - drinking, whoring and gambling among other things, Rocco (Alain Delon) is a quiet spiritual one who'd do anything for the family, even if it means sacrificing his own happiness, Ciro (Max Catier) is the unsung narrator, realist of the film, assessing each of his elder brothers' flaws and tries to teach the youngest Luca that times-are-a-changing.

The bulk of the 3 hour runtime concerns Simone and Rocco's relationship with a local floozy Nadia (alluring Annie Girardot). After unsuccessful attempt with Vincent, she lures Simone in, then dumps him. She runs into Rocco who is finishing up his military service in Turin. His innocence and pious ways impresses her to changes her life around and they become a passionate lovers. Simone's boxing career is not going well due to his vices, and Rocco happens to be excelling at the sport. After Simone finds out about Rocco and Nadia, he tracks them down with his gang and beats up Rocco and rapes Nadia in front of him. In order not to disrupt the family, Rocco urges Nadia to go back to Simone and Nadia reluctantly agrees. And the tragedy ensues.

It's all Alan Delon show though. His youthful beauty and unending saintliness is the point of the movie. As he shivers in the muddy riverbank, tears rolling down his face, you get to feel his soul being crushed over and over. His unconsolable wailing when he finds out that Simone killed Nadia, is one of the most harrowing scenes in any film. Then the life goes on, he needs to tour as a boxer to earn money for the family, beating strangers to a pulp even though he doesn't like that side of himself, dreaming of going back to the south one day.

Beautiful and novelistic, Rocco and His Brothers is one of the greatest Italian neorealist films I've ever seen.

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