2 April 2003 | braugen
Renato Salvatori shines in Visconti's masterpiece
The Italian master Luchino Visconti's 1960 (melo)drama "Rocco e i Suoi Fratelli" is the best film I've seen in a long, long time, and it deserves to be up there among European cinema's finest achievements, along with Visconti's other masterpiece, "Il Gattopardo" (1963).
Aristocrat turned communist, Visconti draws a beautiful, but horrible picture of Milan in the 1960s, when the "immigration" from the South was at its peek, and the social problems in Northern Italy exploded. The differences between north and south in Italy are enormous, and were perhaps even greater back when Visconti and his scriptwriting crew decided to make a contemporary film about a family moving northwards. Visconti wanted to make a film about a mother and her five sons, like the five fingers on her hand, like the mother herself exclaimes at the end of the film. This is not an agitational film, though, just a superbly acted study of a society in disorder and a portrait of a family trying to make ends meet in a harsh world they do not know. Like another Italian director, Pier Paolo Pasolini, noted, the South of Italy stayed an undeveloped land even after the North became industrialized, and that didn't happen before after WWII. This is the grim truth, and the person who thought this film was depressing should just stay on his or her pills and turn his or her eyes towards the real world, because the world IS a depressing place. You just cannot blame directors with a social conscience for trying to tell a story which lies close to their hearts, then you should stay away from film criticism and criticize the world instead. I am so tired of that.
Renato Salvatori makes a performance of a lifetime as the troubled brother Simone, while Alain Delon stays calm and controlled as Rocco, the protagonist, if there is one. Boxing is used as a metaphor for the anger the young men feel, but when Simone fails, Rocco succeeds by fueling his fighting with the contempt for his brother's actions. The two brothers are torn between the beautiful prostitute Nadia, whom they both love passionately, but she only loves Rocco- and that almost breaks the family. The other brothers are more supporting characters, and even though the film is long it should have been even longer- the second youngest brother, Ciro, is an interesting and morally strong character that I would have loved to see developed further. The pride, ignorance, hatred, loyalty and love of these people are held together by a perfect script by Visconti and his four collaborators, and cinema's finest cinematographer, Guiseppe Rotunno, moves his camera magnificently through the streets, houses, and locales of a growing, but morally decaying Milan.
This is cinematic perfection.