Starring: Alain Delon, Renato Salvatori, Annie Giradot
Director: Luchino Visconti
Rated: M 15+
Distributor: Umbrella World Cinema DVD
According to their mother, the five Parondi brothers are like the fingers on her very hand-only when they are together are they truly powerful. But Vincenzo, the eldest has moved to Milan and is about to shack up with the gorgeous Ginetta (Claudia Cardinale) so the recently widowed matriarch decides to move her offspring from their impoverished southern village to the big city and join him. After an incendiary initial encounter with the in-laws, Mama (Katina Paxinou) and the boys set up camp in a basement flat and take on menial jobs like shovelling snow. Then the 21-year old Simone (Renato Salvatori) is directed towards the lucrative business of boxing by his seductive neighbour Nadia (Annie Giradot), a woman that Mama is quick to describe as a ‘puttana’. After some success in the ring the sassy Nadia deigns to be squired by Simone until his criminal inclinations get the better of him and she cuts him adrift.
Meanwhile, Rocco (Alain Delon) has followed his older brother into the gymnasium for some training too and, after a stint in the National Military Service, is beginning to show real promise. He has also taken a shine to Nadia who, under his guidance, is turning over a new leaf but when Simone discovers their affair, he goes all out for revenge. It is here that Visconti takes us into seriously dark terrain, never flinching from his mission to shake us to the core with the terrible tragedy that he has set in motion.
Shot entirely in black and white by Guiseppe Rotunno who also lensed Visconti’s masterpiece Il Gattopardo, this film is part neo-realism, part melodrama with some wonderful expressionistic images throughout like the opening scene in the Milan train station and one on the roof of the city’s cathedral. Nino Rota’s distinctively playful music adds another refined layer to the overall story, underscoring it’s highs and lows for extra emotional effect. Rocky this ain’t, despite the similarities between that film and the sweaty rise of Rocco to the very forefront of the Italian boxing world. Instead, Rocco and His Brothers is a moving tribute to the forces that bind a family and eventually rip it apart.