Sunday, May 29, 2011

#332: Rocco and His Brothers

1960, TSDPT Rank #160

This film is widely considered a masterpiece by many fans of Visconti and European film in general. It has been cited as a perfect film by Francis Ford Coppola, and as his primary inspiration in the making of The Godfather. It's a 3-hour operatic family epic, with intense, tragic characters - but it's a clumsy and plodding film. There are a number of very good scenes in this films, and some great actors and actresses, but they are lost amid the thick underbrush of bad pacing and lost momentum. There is enough potential in this film for it to be a masterpiece, and I think that's why it gets the acclaim it does even today. But if you compare this film with Visconti's glorious, mesmerizing film The Leopard, from a few years later and with about the same length - the flaws inherent in Rocco and His Brothers are brought right out. I think the issue was that Visconti wasn't quite equipped to handle a film of this magnitude yet. He had already proved his skill and talents with the operatic melodramatic Senso, from 1954. I think also that the mere fact that Senso and The Leopard work as well as they do point to the fact that Visconti's strong points are brought out better in color than in black and white - as in this film, where the visuals are quite muted and unspectacular. If you watch this film, you will definitely draw the comparisons to Coppola's masterpiece, The Godfather, but I would warn you that despite its strong points and emotional peaks, Rocco and His Brothers is quite stilted and flawed - and a bit of a chore to get through. Not Visconti's best work by a long shot.

(Rating: 5/10)

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