Rocco and His Brothers (1960)

Rocco and His Brothers (Italian: Rocco e i suoi fratelli) is another of those movies I've been meaning to watch forever but I've always put off for two reasons, its length and its director, Luchino Visconti (long story short, he ruined my favourite book, Mann's Death in Venice). But it is such a classic, I finally put my feelings aside and gave it a chance. I'm glad I did so because this film was fantastic.

It's about the Parondis, a poor family from southern Italy formed by a widow (Katina Paxinou) and her five sons who moves to Milan hoping to have a better life. Living there isn't very easy at the beginning, but then everyone finds something to do and they seem happy. But then a prostitute (Annie Girardot) steps in and comes between Simone (Renato Salvatori) and Rocco (Alain Delon), bringing discord in the family.

In a nutshell, it's a story of struggle. All the struggles any immigrant has to face, from trying to find a new place and being accepted in the new setting, to the dream of going back to one's land. 

But it's also a story of regret, anger and jealousy, three emotions portrayed through the characters of Simone and Rocco. The characterization is impressing allround, but these two are by far the more interesting characters because one is the opposite of the other. Rocco is calm, kind, loving. He is the kind of person who sees the glass half full. Rocco is full of forgiveness and he's willing to do anything to save his family. On the other hand, there's Simone. He never sees the positive side of things. He's the first who doesn't believe in himself and yet he's full of anger towards the world that seems to refuse him. And he's full of anger towards his brother as well because he gets to have everything he wanted. And all that anger generates Simone's violence that eventually leads to the biggest drama of the film [SPOILER] him killing Nadia, the prostitute both he and his brother are in love with.

The characters, however, wouldn't have been that effective if it wasn't for the actors playing them. Alain Delon is sublime as Rocco and his presence adds some sort of poetry to the film. Renato Salvatori also gives a superb performance as Simone. Nothing short of great are the performances from Annie Girardot, playing the woman of discord, and Katina Paxinou as the Parondi family matriarch. Among the cast, there's also a young Claudia Cardinale who finds her way to shine (mostly because of her beauty) in the role of Gina, the wife of one of Rocco's brothers.

Bottom line, Visconti was able to craft a film that captures 1950s-1960s Italy to perfection, especially the lack of a secure future. Finally, the film can also claim a stunning cinematography by Giuseppe Rotunno and a sublime musical score by Nino Rota.

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