[Film Review] Rocco and His Brothers (1960)

Rocco And His Brothers poster

English Title: Rocco and His Brothers
Original Title: Rocco e i suoi fratelli
Year: 1960
Country: Italy, France
Language: Italian
Genre: Drama, Crime, Sport
Director: Luchino Visconti
Writers:
Luchino Visconti
Suso Cecchi D’Amico
Vasco Pratolini
Pasquale Festa Campanile
Massimo Franciosa
Enrico Medioli
Giovanni Testori
Music: Nino Rota
Cinematography: Giuseppe Rotunno
Cast:
Alain Delon
Renato Salvatori
Annie Girardot
Katina Paxinou
Claudia Cardinale
Spiros Focás
Max Cartier
Corrado Pani
Paolo Stoppa
Roger Hanin
Suzy Delair
Rocco Vidolazzi
Claudia Mori
Alessandra Panaro
Adriana Asti
Enzo Fiermonte
Nino Castelnuovo
Rosario Borelli
Renata Terra
Rating: 7.9/10

Rocco and His Brothers 1960

The Parondi family comes from a southern Italian village, after its patriarch passes away, the mother Rosaria (Paxinou) decides to bring her other four sons Simone (Salvatori), Rocco (Delon), Ciro (Cartier) and the underage Luca (Vidolazzi) to seek refuge with her eldest son Vincenzo (Focás) in Milan. Their unexpected arrival instantly enkindles a wrangle with the family of Ginetta (Cardinale), Vincenzo’s fiancée. In the opening gambit, Visconti manifests how he is well-versed in orchestrating a huge cast simultaneously and effectively expediting the scenes from a festive get-together to a classic Italian verbal battle with utter precision.

Milan, in the eyes of the poor folks from hinterland, is a city beckons with opportunities, but initially the Parondis can only rent a crammed basement with all four grown-up sons sleeping in the same room, snowfall is their blessing as they can all earn some dough by shovelling snow. Being sturdy youngsters, Vincenzo, Simone and Ricco all subsequently partake in boxing, an opportunistic venture and each is much abler than his elder brothers. And each brother symbolises a different situation during their (dis)integration of the city: Vincenzo eventually manages to marry Ginetta and he is the lucky ones who is able to lead a normal life and can get out of mamma’s grip; Rocco is nostalgic but saintly, keeps faith in family and blood-lines, to the extent of foolish blindness; Ciro is the upstanding youngster chooses justice before fraternity and Luca is the youngest, one day he might bring the glory back to their hometown. Every family has a black sheep, Simone is the second son, robustly built but with the rawness of a simpleton, and when the prostitute Nadia (Girardot) comes on the scene, he falls head over heels for her and get corrupted by the allure of the cityscape and its dangerous trappings. But Nadia does not simply represent all the adverse sides of the booming city, she is also granted a chance of redemption, when she meets Rocco, she realises she has found her guiding light, but again, there is no good arising from coming between two brothers, Visconti’s misogynous proclivity let her bear the stigma of a victim in the game when clearly audience has been invested too much in Nadia’s awakening and the heartrending abandoning herself to despair where Simone’s benighted jealousy is the original sin here.

Annie Girardot is the MVP among a multi-national cast (Italian, French and Greek, with most of the dialogues dubbed in production), who excels in reining a transcendent shift from a flighty coquette to a pathos-arousing tragedy past any hope, her final struggle is one of the most appalling sequences ever, Visconti doesn’t intend it as a twist, instead, he stages the scenes with imminent maliciousness, and Nadia is embracing it in hope for a final settlement, until the basic instinct of survival overtakes her in the futile struggle during her last breath. It is possibly Alain Delon’s finest performance, at the peak of his youth when his noted charming but glacial on-screen image hasn’t fully come into shape, his Rocco is timorous at first, a mamma’s boy who can do no harm to anyone, until his talent in boxing surfaces, he supplants Simone as the family’s pillar, a national hero, yet his ostensible noble sacrifice in fact reveals that he is the most tragic character in the story, sometimes a saintly heart can not always outdo latent selfishness. Renato Salvatori courageously takes on this unwelcome role of Simone and exudes great on-screen chemistry and tension with Girardot, which turns out not just an act, they became a couple in real life too, additionally, he is also the stimulus of a well-suggested homoerotic vignette.

An Oscar-winner (FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS 1943), the veteran Greek stage thespian Katina Paxinou cannot be overlooked without mentioning, as we all know, parenting is a crucial factor influences children’s character building, being the mother of these five boys, her presence is the most morally ambiguous part of the film, she knows perfectly (maybe unconsciously) how to blackmail her sons with the overriding family value which is the keystone of her parochial beliefs, Paxinou makes for a flawless Italian mamma in spite of the language barrier.

Structurally ROCCO AND HIS BROTHERS anticipates Visconti’s another three-hour epic tale THE LEOPARD (1963) and from any respect, it is a masterpiece well deserving all the fame and admiration, even though the storyline is overtly scheming on the notion “nothing is more compelling like a Greek tragedy”, to say the least, it genuinely concerns about important social issues of mass migration and a textbook paradigm of expounding on family values, the Italian style.

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