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DVD Review

Rocco and His Brothers (1960)


Starring: Alain Delon, Annie Girardot and Claudia Cardinale
RRP: £22.99
Certificate: 15
Available 25 February 2008

Rocco, with his mother Rosaria and three brothers, move from rural Sicily to the industrialised modernity of Milan. Over a twelve year period we follow the family's conflicts, central of which is the struggle between Rocco and his brother Simone for the affection of Nadia, a prostitute...

Rocco and his Brothers (1960), directed by Luchino Visconti, was made at the tale end of the Italian neo-realism movement. Nevertheless it won seven awards and was nominated for a further three. Possibly its biggest claim to fame, for a modern audience, is the score by Nino Rota, who would go on to compose music for, amongst others, The Godfather Trilogy. If you enjoyed the sensibility which the score added to The Godfather then there is much here to enjoy, though I warn you that this appears to be a pretty uncut version of the film, with a running time of two hours and fifty minutes - which covers the twelve year span of the film.

The film is split into segments and, thematically, it moves from being a soap opera to melodrama to finish off on another operatic high as we are witness not only to Nadia’s eventual demise, but also the demise of the family's - and especially Rocco’s - hopes and dreams. As each son follows their own path, it inevitably leads to conflicts and the disintegration of the family as a whole unit.

As a realistic look of the lives of poor Italians, there are few films to match Rocco. Alain Delon is masterful in the title role, even though his character is the most naive. Katrina Paxinou plays the hard-as-nails mother who will do anything to  keep her family together, even interceding in one of her sons romances as she feels he should be spending his time looking after the family. The only character who truly makes the successful transition from rural existence to city life is Ciro (Max Cartier), who through the disintegration of his family maintains his diligence and studies, eventually becoming a mechanic.

The film has a few odd audio options, not all of which are self explanatory. From the main audio menu you can have Italian, with subtitles, or a French dub either with or without subtitles. Or, from the top menu, you can choose Italian with or without subtitles, which makes choosing the one you want to hear a bit messy. The print looks to have been restored as it is in great condition with only a minimal of grain evident, but no damage or artefacts.

Where the film really scores is with its comprehensive set of extras - of which you get eight in all. First up is a Cinecronaca Newsreel (1960, 6 min 58 sec) which is a piece about Italian film, though it also contains many of the contemporarily famous American actors and actresses of the day. Next up is a Caleidoscopio Newsreel (1960, 1 min 48 sec) which is a little behind the scenes footage of them recreating snow for the film. Thirdly we have the original Italian Theatrical Trailer and Les Coulisses du Tournage (2003, 20 min 36 sec), hosted by Claudia Cardinale, who plays Ginetta, which looks at the making of the film, including why the film's sexual violence made it such a contentious movie with the censors. There are three interviews with Guiseppe Rotunno, Annie Girardot and Claudia Cardinale and finally an hour's documentary about the director, Luchino Visconti, after which your desire to know more about the film and its director should be well satiated.

As a presentation of a film, this release is near perfect for a movie of this age - with a very high bang-per-buck ratio and a worthy addition to the collection of anyone serious about movies.


Charles Packer

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