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Rocco and His Brothers

Luchino Visconti's Rocco and His Brothers is a successful attempt to mary tragedy and film. Visconti, born into wealth as Count don Luchino Visconti di Modrone in 1906 and passing away in 1976 after making about 17 films, was also a man of the theater. It is a critical convention to say that Visconti brought an operatic quality to his films, but he had also worked with Jean Renoir, and helped introduce neorealism to Italian cinema. Rocco and his Brothers is a tale about the clash of village and city life set, in part, against the exciting world of boxing. The film begins in the early '50s when widowed matriarch Rosaria Parondi (Katina Paxinou), fleeing a tense political climate and impoverishment back home, arrives suddenly in Milan, with four of her sons, embarrassing her oldest son Vincenzo (Sprios Focas) and breaking up his engagement to his fiancé (Claudia Cardinale). The Parondis discover that the Northern city is not much better. The family fights fragmentation first as Rosaria feuds with the fiancé's family, then as brother Simone (Renato Salvatori) descends into a life of dissipation, which includes a stormy relationship with a hooker named Nadia (Annie Girardot), gambling and drink problems, and a descent into gay hustling. Only Rocco (a brilliant Alain Delon, though with a dubbed voice), the idealistic middle brother of the five, seeks to hold the family together and maintain the values of the village. When he falls in love with Nadia two years after she and Simone have broken up, the machinery of tragedy is engaged. It's a tragedy that explores the penalties of doing good in a corrupt world where you really don't know the rules. Visconti blends melodrama with a dose of neorealism in Rocco with its forays into confused sexual identities, fraternal jealousy, rape, and even murder within the context of a documentary-style appearance. Nino Rota's quiet score, with its echoes of The Godfather, supports the melodrama, while Giuseppe Rotuno's beautiful photography augments the neorealism. Made in early 1960 and released first in Italy in late 1960, then in the U.S. the following year, Rocco and his Brothers is perhaps Visconti's masterpiece. Image Entertainment has done a noble job of making the film available in America at all, but the source print on their DVD, though offering the complete uncensored movie, does bear various speckles, and even what looks to be a hair-in-the-gate effect during the film's last shot. The Dolby Digital mono track is audible, but does little for Rota's score. It's a four-star movie on a lesser disc. Still, what's most important is that this is the complete version of the film. Keep-case.
—D.K. Holm

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