Rocco and His Brothers

At once lyrical and brutal, this family saga is fatalist film noir expressed through a purity of vision; like the saintly Rocco (Alain Delon) himself, it takes a lot of violence to daunt Visconti's love. Rocco is a character like Dostoyevsky's Prince Mishkin, or Bresson's Balthazar. He is the anomaly among the five sons of a poor but canny widow (Katina Paxinou) who brings her family from the south to Milan, where they “arrive like an earthquake,” unprepared for the strains of urban living. The film develops in five episodes, one devoted to each brother, but the structure is as complex as their lives are intertwined. Delon, in his finest role, and Annie Girardot, as the prostitute who takes the fall for the saint, validate Visconti's view that “an expression of the burden of being human is the only thing that really counts on the screen.”

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