Rocco And His Brothers

DVD Rating: ****

Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Read Angus Wolfe Murray's film review of Rocco And His Brothers
Alain Delon in Rocco And His Brothers

They have taken trouble and made a big effort to put something worthwhile into the DVD package. Usually, with a film this old, you are lucky if you get a talking head.

There are three long interviews, with cinematographer Guiseppe Rotunno and actors Claudia Cardinale and Annie Girardot, conducted by the director Carlo Lizzani, all of which are fascinating. If Cardinale’s is a little less fasc, it is due to Lizzani’s inability to squeeze any juicy goss out of her. “I was a difficult type,” she admits. “I never mix professional life with personal life.” His delicate enquiries into her private thoughts about actors and directors are met with a wide, gushing smile. She is remembered especially for The Leopard, but let’s not forget that she started her showbiz career as The Most Beautiful Italian In Tunisia. Girardot, on the other hand, is prickly, passionate and packed with energy. Although she forgets names sometimes, she’s right there when it comes to remembering Visconti’s influence in her life and what fun it was (“He loved to laugh”). She started at the Comedie-Francaise, but left when they asked her to sign a contract - for 22 years! She met Visconti when he directed Two For The Seesaw, in which she appeared with Jean Marais, on stage in Paris and he persuaded her to come to Italy for screen tests. This was for Rocco And His Brothers where she met Renato Salvatori, her future co-star and later husband, and - did she actually admit this? - spent the night with him. Rotunno is a master and, like so many great men, exceedingly modest. He worked on most of Visconti’s films and all the famous Italian directors of the day. Stanley Kramer invited him to come in Hollywood, or rather Australia, for On The Beach after he had taken over as cameraman on a film with Ava Gardner in Rome and she had been so impressed she wanted him to sign up for all her future pictures, which, politely, he declined.

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The real gem of these extras is the biographical doc of Lucino himself, presented once again by the elegant Lizzani. It covers his life, from a privileged childhood amongst the aristocracy to the final disappointment when his American backers balked at Proust. The portrait is complete. He began by building a racing stable before being sucked into the film world and becoming Jean Renoir’s assistant. He worked in theatre, opera and cinema, joined the Resistance during the war, was one of the instigators of what became known as Neo-Realism, worshipped – well, greatly admired – Thomas Mann, whose novel Death In Venice he filmed with Dirk Bogarde, and directed Maria Callas at La Scala. His charm was legendary, like his good taste, his love of jokes, his generosity and his tantrums. Tennessee Williams considered his Streetcar the best he had seen outside of America. Alain Delon said, “He taught me everything.” He wanted Laurence Olivier for The Leopard, but couldn’t get him. Someone suggested Burt Lancaster (“Oh no, cowboy actor, gangster, terrible, terrible, terrible!”) But the former trapeze artist was physically right for the part. “It was the best work I did as an actor,” Lancaster says. They became, until Visconti's death, the firmest of friends.

Reviewed on: 25 Feb 2008
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Rocco And His Brothers packshot
A family from the rural south fight for unity and purpose in post-war Milan.
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Product Code: EKA40257

Region: 2

Sound: Dolby Digital

Extras: Newsreel featurettes; interviews with Giuseppe Rotunno, Annie Girardot and Claudia Cardinale; documentary featurette - Les Coulisses Du Tournage; documentary featurette - Luchino Visconti; original trailer; 40 page booklet

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