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Rocco and His Brothers

The Italian film director Luchino Visconti once said that the only thing that really counts on the screen is "an expression of the burden of being human." Of all his work, Visconti's Rocco and His Brothers (1960), which is showing in revival Friday through December 19 at the Starz FilmCenter, may best represent the fulfillment of his ideal. Composed of five trenchant episodes spread over six years, Rocco follows the troubled fortunes of five peasant brothers who, with their beleaguered mother, migrate from poverty-stricken southern Italy to Milan in the industrial north. There, the brothers are variously corrupted by city life -- in the boxing ring, in an automobile factory, in the netherworld of petty crime and violence.Sometimes regarded as a continuation of Visconti's ill-fated 1948 film, La Terra Trema, about an exploited family of Sicilian fishermen, Rocco is more focused in its gritty indictment of contemporary society. But Visconti departs from his brethren in the Italian neo-realist movement by employing the highly stylized, darkly poetic style that would characterize his later work -- including The Leopard, The Damned and his mysterious version of Death in Venice. The impressive Franco-Italian cast includes many stars of the then-emergent European art cinema -- Alain Delon, Annie Girardot, Renato Salvatori, Spiros Focás, Katina Paxinou (as the widowed mother) and Claudia Cardinale. The cinematographer is the great Giuseppe Rotunno, who also collaborated often with Federico Fellini and Lina Wertmüller; the score is written by Fellini stalwart Nino Rota. Here's a rare opportunity to see a neglected masterpiece.

 
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