Media Arts Program

Wednesday, February 8, 2017 — Thursday, February 9, 2017 at 7:00 pm

$8 general, $6 students/seniors, $5 members

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Hallwalls & Cultivate Cinema Circle present


(Luchino Visconti, 1960, 177 minutes)

This brand-new poster for Visconti's film was created by Lauren Caddick for the 2015 release of the new 4K DCP release of the restored film.
On the 20th anniversary of the always popular (albeit occasional) Hallwalls winter repertory film series, Long Nights, Bright Screens (launched in January–February 1997)—and for this screening only in partnership with Cultivate Cinema Circle—Hallwalls will present two screenings of the beautifully restored 1960 Italian epic released by Milestone Films in 2015.



Rocco and His Brothers

Published: New York Times, January 28, 1961

"A fine Italian film to stand alongside the American classic, The Grapes of Wrath, opened last night at the Beekman and the Pix on Forty-second Street. It is Luchino Visconti's Rocco and His Brothers (Rocco e i suoi fratelli), and it comes here garlanded with laurels that are quite as appropriate in this context as they are richly deserved.

"For there is in this strong and surging drama of an Italian peasant family's shattering fate in the face of the brutalizing forces of unfamiliar modern city life a kind of emotional fullness and revelation that one finds in the great tragedies of the Greeks—a quality that was potent and conspicuous in the comparable Grapes of Wrath.

"No minor or purely chance conditions affect and derange the simple lives of the Lucanian mother and her five sons who assemble in Milan at the beginning of the film. A destiny as sure and universal as the one that altered the life of Ruth, the displaced Moab maiden who stood in tears amidst the alien corn, or transformed the lives of the pioneers who pierced the American frontier, tangles and tears the living patterns of the people in this film and strains and distorts their gentle natures into forms that are pathetic and grotesque.

"To be sure, the incidents that trigger the changes in the lives of these people who arrive in the big northern city with bags of oranges and thrill at their first glimpse of snow were arbitrary selections by the five men who wrote the script, but the point is that any alien incidents would eternally alter their lives. That is the subterranean rumble that Signor Visconti makes one feel.

"The fact that it is a little triumph for one of the brothers as a prizefighter with a sleazy stable that introduces the taint of callous commercialism and urban brutality into the bosom of the family is of incidental concern. This is but symptomatic of the inevitable condition of change. And events that snowball upon this triumph—the fighter's harboring of a prostitute, her switch to another brother (Rocco), the jealousy this foments, and the whole horrible rift in family feelings and loyalties it precipitates—are but the consequential workings of an ageless destiny.

"At least, that is how Signor Visconti has clearly conceived his film and that is what his brilliant handling of events and characters makes one feel. There's a blending of strong emotionalism and realism to such an extent that the margins of each become fuzzy and indistinguishable.

"In the strongest single sequence, for instance—the sequence in which the vicious brother rapes the reformed prostitute and budding sweetheart before the gentle Rocco's eyes and then slugs it out with the poor fellow all through the gaunt and ugly night—the reality of the defilement is so powerfully saturated with the emotional dam-burst of the brothers that the sequence is one raw experience, a vast tangle of cold fact and hot feeling, which is what all strong experience usually is.

"And it is with this sensitive understanding that the whole film is played, in accord with the lush Italian nature and with the fullest emotional capacities of man. Alain Delon as the sweet and loyal Rocco, the brother who emerges from deep pain to shoulder the burden of his wayward brother and the family responsibilities, is touchingly pliant and expressive, but it is Renato Salvatori, as the bum, who fills the screen with the anguish of a tortured and stricken character. His raw and restless performance is overpowering and unforgettable.

"The French actress Annie Girardot is likewise striking as the piteous prostitute, torn between a feral animalism and a longing for tender, honest love. She, too, is an interesting symbol of the brutalizing forces of urban life, and what happens to her at the finish is a meaningful irony.

"As the warm, superstitious, helpless mother, Katina Paxinou babbles and wails her love and anguish with great natural liberality, and Spiros Focas, Max Cartier, and Rocco Vidolazzi are rich and credible as other assorted sons. Claudia Cardinale, a new Italian starlet, is impressive as the oldest son's new wife, and Roger Hanin is appropriately unwholesome as a corrupt operator in the boxing world.

"A haunting musical score by Nino Rota, top man in Italy in this field, puts a highly important aural background behind this three-hour-long, never-lagging film, which is being shown here with English subtitles, fairly good ones, for the Italian dialogue."

"Luchino Visconti’s strange sprawling epic, from 1960, is a flamboyant melodrama about how a poor Sicilian family (a mother and her five sons) is corrupted and eventually destroyed by life in Milan. Visconti’s methods are still partly neorealist, but the scale of the film is huge and operatic,…The movie is memorable largely because of Annie Girardot’s stunning performance as a prostitute; her role suggests that of Dostoyevsky’s great heroine in 'The Idiot,' while her final scene suggests Büchner’s 'Woyzeck.' (There are also suggestions of the Biblical story of Joseph and his brethren.) The weirdest aspect of the film is the casting of Alain Delon (who at times seems to be lighted as if he were Hedy Lamarr) as a saintly, simple Prince Myshkin. Renato Salvatori plays the most forceful of the brothers—it’s actually his sexual passion, rather than the horrors of urban existence, that destroys the family."

~ Pauline Kael, The New Yorker