Rocco and His Brothers
Directed by Luchino Visconti
When a widow’s family moves to the big city, two of her sons become romantic rivals, with deadly results.
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★★★★★ review by Calib McBolts on Letterboxd
This tragic portrait of social change among a family of five brothers is a powerfully authentic, and ridiculously influential neorealist melodrama that is operatic in its execution and intimate in its telling creating a richly alive atmosphere in which these fascinatingly troubled characters operate.
Rocco and His Brothers is a film of overwhelming ferocity and love. Luchino Visconti, the Italian maestro who helmed this masterwork, lays down the most naked essentials of the family drama, and stretches the potentially stagy narrative to a sprawling 3 hours of visceral understanding. It displays all the delicacies of a family that feels about half that length because these characters just absorb you. Their lives become so meaningful and tangible, and when the story begins to turn tragic it is almost too much to take.
Despite some occasionally poor ADR, this film features three of the greatest performances of all time. One by Annie Girardot, one by Renato Salvatori and one by Alain Deloin. The characters of Nadia, Simone and Rocco and their complex relationship dynamics is what launches this film into the masterpiece pantheon of 60's screen classics. These people make the three-hour runtime easily digestible because you are transfixed by everything they do.
Visconti moves his camera around these characters in numerous long takes to detail the tragedy of a family fighting poverty, repression, and a loyalty to each other enforced by their protective and religious mother. The soundtrack by Nino Rota (One of my 3 favorite film composers), which glaringly evokes his later masterwork The Godfather, underscores each moment of heart wrenching sincerity with organic passion.
#127 on: Top 250 Favorite Films of All-Time
Added to: Favorite Females in Film
★★★★½ review by davidehrlich on Letterboxd
Luchino Visconti’s epic melodrama of social migration and moral decay was first released in 1960, when it was met with great scandal (a prosecutor threatened to charge the director with “disseminating an obscene object”) and even greater success. Today, distanced from ridiculous controversy and dislocated from the provincial politics that drive its story, this immaculately restored classic of post-WWII Italian cinema often feels like a new experience altogether.
★★★★★ review by Tyler on Letterboxd
Luchino Visconti's Rocco and His Brothers is an epic, in every sense of the word. It is a three hour film following one generation of a family, in the form of four brothers, their worrisome, frantic mother and one woman, Nadia, who becomes involved with two of the brothers. It is marvellously directed, and the cast are all absolutely perfect in their roles, inhabiting them with skill and stunning power. The film is 170 minutes long but never less than riveting, and like Visconti's subsequent film The Leopard, it well earns its place as an all-time classic. Visconti, a severely underrated director who ranks right up there with Fellini and Antonioni as a vital, important Italian for the film industry, has crafted a movie that reminds us why it is we love the movies. Rocco and His Brothers is wonderful, flawless, overwhelming, emotional and fantastic. A marvel of a film.
★★★★ review by William Tell on Letterboxd
→ Part of my Italian Summer Challenge
Considered one of the very last Italian films to be part of the Neo-Realist movement, Rocco e i Suoi Fratelli consorts stark social debauchery with human affection and sexual ambiguity in many intricate ways. Luchino Visconti’s direction – assured, subtle and intense – juggles ingeniously with many of these themes to create an elaborate portrait of the human condition and its moral values.
His film is replete with the audiovisual prowess we’ve come to expect from his collaborators – Nino Rota in the musical field providing an inconspicuous but highly penetrating and profound score, and Giuseppe Rotunno behind the camera shooting the characters with graceful movements and lighting angles. Yet what shines most in Visconti's three-hour opus is the human drama and inspiring characters that drive it.
Moving from Lucania to Milan with her four sons, Rosaria is an outspoken catholic widow in search of a better life for her family. She arrives in the city to visit her fifth son, Vicenzo, who has already lived there for some time and his about to get engaged to a charming woman. Her quick visit to the engagement party proves to be destructive of the whole arrangement, driving her five sons to come live under the same roof as her. They struggle to keep warm in a small basement where the six all sleep, but for them the falling snow outside is a good sign: they’ll have work shoveling the streets the next day. As the film renders this family’s dour but affectionate coexistence, it divides itself into five separate but communicating chapters, each entitled after a brother’s name. ‘Vicenzo’ comes first, with his story of intermitted and unconsented love playing out very realistically. The second and third chapters, called ‘Simone’ and ‘Rocco’ respectively, take most of the film’s runtime and make up its central plot points, as Simone enamors a prostitute named Nadia who later falls in love with Rocco – to catastrophic consequences. In these chapters, Visconti explores thoroughly the characters’ sexuality with many subtle but incredible tactics, although what he is mainly focused on is the contrasting personalities of the two siblings. Simone is a monstrous boxing figure, capable of murder and rape, whose vices have transformed him into an immoral brute. Rocco, on the other hand, is saintly and forgiving, hardworking and honest, but whose infinite goodness is utterly misplaced. Between them is Nadia (amazingly played by Annie Girardot), a powerful but pitiful woman, who suffers from sexist nonsense and strange character development only to come to a tragic end.
The relationship between the two brothers and their family becomes difficult to sustain, climaxing with melodramatic notes in the film’s final chapter, entitled after the youngest brother – Luca. The teenage boy, influenced by so many different personalities within his family, is rather lost and needs moral clarifications from his brothers. Yet only one of them is reachable, the pragmatic Ciro – after Simone’s monstrous downfall, Rocco’s immense fame and Vicenzo’s marriage, all of them are unreachable. Throughout the film, Visconti comments on all of these aspects, brotherhood, the haziness of human values and fame to conclude that the times indeed are a-changing. His prediction, though, is far from optimistic, and ultimately – he was right.
| Direction: 9,0 | Sound: 8,0
| Screenplay: 8,5 | Editing: 9,0
| Acting: 8,5 | Entertainment: 8,5
| Visuals: 9,0 | Overall Rating: 8,7
★★★★★ review by Wilson on Letterboxd
Luchino Visconti's Rocco and His Brothers is an absolute masterpiece. The long family melodrama, that plays like The Godfather, without the organised crime or father-son issues. It is all mother-son issues for Alain Delon and co.
The film uses its 178 minute runtime perfectly, building a world for its characters and then allowing them to inhabit the world, as themes, like rural versus industrial, poverty and familial responsibility, play in the background. The film never lags for one moment, and is precisely moved along by the character chapters that become the backbone of the structure. It is thoroughly engrossing, even in the most repellent moments, where the overriding masculinity of the brothers destroys much around them.
The film has a sterling cast, with Alain Delon, Renato Salvatori, Katina Paxinou, Spiros Focás and Claudia Cardinale, all giving superb performances. Delon is particularly good as the internal Rocco that the film revolves around. However, without doubt, the film is stolen by the incredible performance by Annie Girardot. Girardot is the heart of the picture, she is charismatic and generates almost all of the emotion. She gets a number of stand-out scenes, heartbreaking scenes, horrific scenes and she is amazing in all of them. It is one of the best performances I have seen in a long time.
Rocco and His Brothers is a beautifully composed melodrama, with a perfect score from Nino Rota. A family saga that is wholly compelling, driven by excellent artistry. It is clearly one of the best films of the 1960s, and is the best film I have seen for the first time in a long time. Classic.
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