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I assumed as I watched "Rocco and His Brothers" that Luchino Visconti intended this as a film illustrating about the dehumanizing aspects of living in the big city. The story is about a family from the country that moves to Milan and ultimately many of them turn out to be rather soulless--perhaps due, in part, to the rigors of everyday life. Because of this, it is VERY difficult to like most of the characters--the mother and some of her sons (particularly the two which are featured most prominently) are selfish and nasty. But, if you can look past this, the film is very well acted and very well made. Pleasant viewing? Good grief no...but very interesting.The film is broken into five segments. Each is named after one of the brothers and not all what occurs centers just on the brother for which each portion is named, as Simone and Rocco are prominent throughout the film. It all begins with Mama and four of her sons arriving in the city, uninvited, in the middle of her son Vincente's engagement party to Ginetta. Mama just assumes Vincente will take them all in when they leave their country home and get his brothers jobs. Ginetta's family is flabbergasted and there is a huge argument and her family stomps out of the party. Despite this being Mama's fault, she is angry at Ginetta throughout the film and sulks. This is the first indication that this family has an illness in their soul--much more is to come later.The rest of the film mostly centers on Rocco and Simone. Simone has a real chance to bring himself and his family out of poverty, as he seems to have a lot of talent when it comes to boxing. The problem is that Simone is also lazy and a real creep. As for Rocco, he seems like a nice guy but also is inextricably tied to his family. Nothing matters more than his family--even right and wrong. So, when Simone ultimately proves to be a truly evil pig, Rocco cannot bring himself to condemn him and even makes excuses for him. Things then only get worse until, ultimately, Ciro cannot take it any more and deserts his family in order to do what is right. Still, as the film ends, Rocco remains impotent--unable to do anything to break from his family's sick need to protect itself from the world even when they have done evil. If you wonder why I haven't gotten more specific about the plot, it is because saying more would really spoil the film. Plus, at nearly three hours, there is much, much more to "Rocco and His Brothers".An odd thing about this movie and many other Italian films of the era is that the film has a multinational cast. Instead of just Italians, there are French and Greek actors in this one and the film is dubbed into Italian. While this may sound terrible, it actually works pretty well. Plus, while they might not have been natural Italian speakers, the non-Italians did a nice job.While I think, as I mentioned above that the film was intended as an indictment about the dehumanizing nature of the big city, I do like how many different interpretations can be found. While I assume that Visconti might not have envisioned other meanings (since he was of a strong socialist bent), it could also be assumed that the family was always corrupt or that the city only gave them a chance to reveal how rotten they were. Plus, not all the boys were bad--several seemed decent but also some of these were unfortunately extremely loyal to a mother who was rather awful. From a psychological or psychoanalytic point of view, the film also offers MANY interesting interpretations--such as some weird multi-child Oedipal fixation occurring throughout the film. Or, that so much of Simone's story is phallic. Or, that the boys have never learned to separate themselves from the umbilical cord. Or, perhaps the meaning is more obvious--misplaced loyalty. I am sure there are also many, many other interpretations and I appreciate that about a film. I hate obvious and easy to understand--and "Rocco and His Brothers" is a very complex movie.So is the film worth seeing? Well, yes, it is a pretty amazing film for 1960. But, it also is very unpleasant and very, very long--so it's certainly NOT a film that everyone will enjoy. Additionally, it's NOT a film I would recommend if you have been a victim of sexual assault, as the film touches on subject matter that might be a bit overwhelming and there is a rape scene that is tough to watch (though fortunately not too sexually graphic).By the way, I noticed that some described this as a Neo-Realist film. While it has many aspects of such a type of film (such as its being set in natural locations around the city of Milan), the film did employ mostly professional actors (such as Alaine Delon and Katina Paxinou)--something you would never find in a true example of Neo-Realism. Perhaps it's a Semi-Neo-Realist film. In general, as Italy recovered from the economic problems following WWII, the number of non-actors starring in the Neo-Realist films decreased--probably since the studios gradually were able to pay for real actors. Yet, despite this, many of the early Neo-Realist films are still among the greatest films in the country's history.
"Rocco e i suoi fratelli" or "Rocco and His Brothers" is an Italian/Franch co-production from 1960, so this movie will have its 60th anniversary soon, maybe already happened depending on when you read this review. The imdb rating here is really high, so it would easily be in the top250 if it had a little more votes, which means that while it is not a forgotten film, it is still far from really famous. Nonetheless, it is a definite contender for most known work by director Luchino Visconti, who is also a writer here, one of many writers. But the quanztity of writers really should not surprise anybody taking into account that this black-and-white movie runs for almost three hours in fact. A really long one. The cast is mostly Italian, especially the guys, while the two female characters with the most screen time are played by French and Greek actresses. The French is Annie Girardot and she was nominated for a BAFTA here, the Greek is Oscar winner Katina Paxinou who plays the mother to a group of young Italian men. The one that stands out there the most is Renato Salvatori playing an Italian brute version of Marlon Brando in Streetcar struggling with life, love, work and most of all himself. It's kinda ironic that Salvatori and Girardot fell in love while making this movie and later married looking at the turbulent relationship between their characters here. Anyway, back to the cast: The one big name many film-goers will identify easily even today is Alain Delon who was still in his early/mid-20s when making this movie, now he is in his mid-80s. But despite how famous he still is and how everybody else working on this film is basically dead and gone, I do not think he was one of the defining players in this film unfortunately, a bit of a bummer also looking at how much his character was at the center of the story. But it's not (only) him to blame, the script also did not offer him as much as you would have hoped. Or he did not make the most of it. Like for example Paxinou really did not have too much screen time, but she was really memorable with her truly emotional sequences, in which she went all in, but never felt false or over-the-top and that was quite impressive. A memorable supporting turn.Now lets take a look at the story. Honestly, I would say there was not too much story given the running time. I guess they also could have fit this film into two hours had they tried. But it's all good. It still felt shorter than it was. We have a mother with many sons coming to the city in order to offer them a better life than their dad had. One of the sons is a promising boxer, while everybody else is trying to make ends meet. It's kidna funny too see the scene with all the snow outside and how happy the mother is the boys will find work now cleaning the houses and streets from the snow. But things take a very different turn when one of the sons starts an affair with a prostitute and really falls for her. The other way around not too much. So at some point they don't see each other for 2 years or so before the woman becomes an item with one of the other brothers (Delon). The boxer won't tale this humiliation and real tragedy ensues. There is a heartbreaking rape scene and the murder at the end of the film is just as intense pretty much, or almost as intense I would say. In general you could say that this is not a film that llets its protagonists stand in a positive light. I mean often films do only that, offer way too perfect and good-spirited characters to their audiences, but this one here is the opposite. Nobody is really likable at all, certainly not the boxing brute. And also Delon's character shows some really bad character when he throws away the girl after what happened to her and even tells her she should get together with the one who took her dignity. The old mother? Maybe because she does not know what happened exactly, but also her words about how the brute son basically just erased his guilt by killing the girl makes obvious that she aso has really questionable ideas when it comes to moral and responsibility. So maybe the one who is likable is the girl. I don't know. She's not an angel for sure either, but at least she does not do or say anything downright despicable in here. She obviously needs psychological help on many occasions, especially in the second half. The worst she does maybe is play with the brute and start into a relationship with him although she never loves him. Or gets together with his brother although she knew how much it's gonna hurt her ex, but this also does not seem really something to blame her for, if she even knew how crazy in love he was. Oh yeah like I said obviously there's other brothers too like the one who gets a little more focus towards the end, but honestly, none of them are even remotely interesting and it rings false when they are trying to push them into the spotlight out of nowhere. Same about the married brother early on who is busy dealing with his wife when his big family suddenly arrives and sure doesn't stay for long because of the mothers wish. The little boy is okay too, maybe also because how easy it is to not get him mixed up with any of the others and also it feels kinda right how he still sticks with the (first) boxer because of family bonds. In general family and honor were completely different issues back then compared to what they are today, which makes it also an interesting film from that perspective, even if a bit difficult to understand today.Now finally, lets take a look at some other factors. For example I thought the soundtrack was pretty good. And boxing was a big thing back then, bigger than today for sure, also and especially in movies. There I can make another parallel to a Brando film. Of course I am talking about "In the Waterfront". But lets not go into detail about that one now, just focus on the boxing here. It is a crucial component when it comes to the brother relationship. The younger brother not only takes his career from him, but also his girl. And funnily, the first and only times he is linked to both is because of his older brother with the girl when he takes her to his place and with the boxing as he actually uses the younger brother as his sparring partner because he is not happy with the sparring partners at his gym. So yes there is a great deal of boxing action in this film. I am not a fan of the sport at all (anymore), but they still made sense and were worthy inclusions that are also easy to enjoy if you are not too much into Mayweather, Fury and Joshua. Of course besides that, there is a great deal of story too that is linked not one bit to professional sports. But still I have a little criticism here, namely that it seemed way too fast adn a bit unrealistic how quickly Delon's character was turning into a superb boxer, even on an international level, not just because at the end we see these newspapers that show us he is fighting across the globe now, but also early on when he has zero ambition really but within months only, 1 or 2 years at best, turns into a superstar. I know they wanted to push that story line about the other brother hitting rock bottom while the young guy's star was rising, but I feel it could have been done more competently. Oh by the way, completely aside from that: I said almost everybody is deceased now sadly earlier, but this is also not true in the case of the young Claudia Cardinale at the beginning, but not very early days, of her career. She plays a minor part only though and this was long before her big international breakthrough. She turned 80 last year. Okay bacxk to the movie what else can I add let me think: Oh yes back to Girardot's character, who perhaps gave the best and most haunting performance in here. There is a crucial difference between the farewell scenes with the brothers, namely she is all suicidal and says it makes no sense to live without the younger one when he ends things with her (how cold-hearted! again) and when she eventually spends the last moments without her killer she says something along the lines it does not matter to her anyway what he will do to her, but clearly she was only talking about being raped again as we hear later on her scream in fear that she does not want to die, so there she wants to live, which shows the strong contrast when it comes to her and how she perceives the brothers. She is among the most tragic characters in film history anyway, also as we see before her death that she was working as a prostitute again to make ends meet as she is with another man out there in the nature near the water. Okay I think this would be all then I have to say today about this movie. I think it has some great moments, but the rating here is still a bit too high, even for a seven I would have to be fairly generous, but it is never a weak film that much is safe and also a strong watch from the atmospheric perspective. The title I like too. It is simple, but nice. All in all, no hesitation for me in giving this one a thumbs-up. Go watch it if you like old (Italian) movies. I myself was glad I got this to watch on a big screen again on the occasion of a film retrospctive. No regrets. Don't miss out. 350c69d7ab