Sunday, 22 January 2023

Rocco and His Brothers [1960]

 Luchino Visconti’s gritty, poetic and tragic jewel Rocco and His Brothers splendidly exhibited neorealist themes, sensibilities and aesthetics that the director had himself co-created and launched with Ossessione – his stunning transmogrification of James M. Cain’s pulp noir classic The Postman Always Rings Twice – while also subverting the movement’s core rubric through use of professional actors and production designs. With its sprawling yet tightly structured tale of an earthy, closely-knit family that finds itself slowly but inexorably disintegrating upon migrating from the agrarian and rural “south” to the industrialized and urbanized “north” – with dreams of a better life in Milan – the film was at once timeless in its evocation of paradise, the false enticement of money and the corrupting influence of a metropolis, and representative of the post-War Italian zeitgeist. Though structured like a novel with chapters named after each of the brothers, and intricately weaved around the Perondi family that comprised of an overprotective matriarch (Katina Paxinou) and her five sons, it focussed primarily on the volatile and self-destructive Simone (Renato Salvatori) and the soft-spoken and idealistic Rocco (Alain Delon). The repercussions of their severely contradictory fortunes as professional boxers, and their doomed love affairs with Nadia (Annie Girardot), an alluring and fiercely independent prostitute, led them on a violent collision course. Delon, fresh off his sensational turn in Purple Noon which released in the same year, and Salvatori were both superb, while Girardot gave a smouldering and magnetic performance. Giuseppe Rotunno’s mesmeric, high-contrast B/W photography of Milan – with its cathedral, trams, foggy streets, laundromats and desolate outskirts – and Nino Rota’s melancholic score, added arresting dimensions to the film’s brutal and disturbing sequences that’d led to massive censorship challenges.

Director: Luchino Visconti

Genre: Drama/Urban Drama/Family Drama/Ensemble Film

Language: Italian

Country: Italy

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