Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Rocco and his brothers

I took my own advice about the availability of most of my Top Ten Italian movies on Netflix Instant Watch and saw Rocco and his brothers again.

I first watched Visconti's most famous movie as an undergraduate many years ago. I must say, that as compared to other top movies I've seen again, it hasn't held up as well. But it's still a major, major achievement. And any excuse is good to see Alain Delon (Rocco, to the right in the photo) in his youthful splendor. Co-star Renato Salvatori also does a damn good job.

The 1960 movie (long) deals with five brothers who come up from Southern Italy (Basilicata/Lucania) with their mother as internal "immigrants" to Milan, trying to escape the dire poverty of the South. It is a sympathetic treatment of the immigration question, and the five brothers illustrate the spectrum of reactions one can take to the difficulties of displacement, discrimination, alienation, exploitation, and assimilation (lots of -tion nouns, I know.) One of them turns to crime and ultimately murder.

The finale shows the brothers conflicted about turning in the bad apple. One of them finally decides to, thus breaking what has been called "amoral familism" and the ruinous practice of omerta'. I believe that Visconti, a Northerner, saw this as a guardedly optimistic sign for the future of Italy and the Southern problem (which still exists, and how). But fifty years later, in 2010, the new immigrants are mostly foreigners- and serious issues are once again raging.