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Directors of For Sama

Lulu Wang (The Farewell)
Ritesh Batra (Photograph)
Schmidt & Abrantes (Diamantino)
Wanuri Kahiu (Rafiki)
Jia Zhang-ke (Ash is Purest White)

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'Hit Me', Rocco!

Boxing BrothersOnly 3 episodes of Hit Me With Your Best Shot left and here's one of the three! Please join us with your own "best shot" choices for Aliens (July 13th) and Rebel Without a Cause (July 20th) as we close out the second season in the next two weeks.

Those films will be easier tasks than Luchino Visconti's ROCCO AND HIS BROTHERS (1960), mostly because they're more familiar properties. Visconti offers up so much to ponder in his novelistic film that one viewing might not suffice.

Rocco and His Brothers, which charts the sad aspirational lives of the Pardoni family -- they're country boys who move to the big city (Milan) -- is structured loosely by chapters named after and focusing on each brother from eldest to youngest: Vincenzo (Spiros Focás), Simone (Renato Salvatori), Rocco (Alain Deloin), Ciro (Max Cartier) and Luca (Rocco Vidolazzi). But this family is so codependent that that shifting narrative focus wouldn't be all that obvious without the title cards.

In fact, the brothers are rarely separated physically. They sleep in the same rooms, chase the same dreams (boxing), train and shower together, and even share women (albeit tragically). Visconti often films them in clumps, particularly in the first chapter, as the entire Pardoni family moves to Milan on the night of the engagement party of the eldest son.

They're never separated emotionally, as in this late shot in the film, when Rocco struggles to make a toast and the weight of his entire family hangs over him -- quite literally given the set decoration!

Rocco is a fascinating lead character because he's held up as an ideal in some respects being loyal, hard-working, and unencumbered by greed... but his tragic flaw is his own saintly martyrdom. The patriarch of the Pardoni clan is dead before the film begins (the matriarch is still wearing black) but he left five sons behind. You'd never know it from Rocco's savior complex. Does he fancy himself "the only begotten" what with the way he continually lays down his own blood, body, spirit and dreams for his wayward brother? 

But Rocco is no Christ. His love for his fellow man, or at least this one brother Simone, is so great that it's actually sinful. And it's not his own life he is willing to sacrifice but his woman's, Nadia's (a terrific Annie Girardot who you'll remember as Isabelle Huppert's crazy mother in The Piano Teacher).

Which is why the following two shots moved me the most.

Midway through the film Rocco dumps Nadia for love of his brother Simone (if Rocco and His Brothers weren't already considered a classic film, it'd have to be considered at least a classic soap opera) but his tears are impotent and this generosity of spirit hugely conditional since Nadia isn't exactly getting a good deal. In the end, it's Nadia who has to be crucified and she's not the one with the savior complex. 

"If I wanted a sermon, I'd go to mass."

Nathaniel and His Blog Brothers...  
Thanks to the following who also watched the movie for this Hit Me episode. Go read this great posts.


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Reader Comments (5)

I have always wanted to see this picture... this may be the impetus for me to find it.

July 7, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterrick

that's what i always hope when we cover older pictures :) it's really good. totally involving.

July 7, 2011 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

The first few times I saw this movie I was pretty much only watching for Alain Deloin (be still my heart, he's so lovely in this). I always found the rest of the film kind of hokey heavy-handed. Over the years, it's grown on me though. The MNPP description best describes why:
Roger Ebert said this of the film:

"It is a combination that should not work, but does, between operatic melodrama and seamy social realism, which at no point in its 177-minute running time seem to clash, although they should."

I don't think he's quite right there - I think the whole point is the clash, and it's all they do, and poignantly. Nadia can sweep her arms out with romantic notions of her sacrifice, but she just ends up screeching and dead in the mud.

July 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterChristine

Christine -- agreed that JA's post at MNPP is very smart. a must read.

July 8, 2011 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

I haven't seen much Alain Delon, but I'd like to see this one and the Ripley one (Plein Soleil?). Delon is so gorgeous to look at, but in the last one I saw him in, Melville's Le Samurai, I thought the clothes were wearing him, not the other way around.

Oddly enough, the actor that I think physically sort of resembles Delon is Zac Ephron. One reviewer wrote that Ephron had the look of an actor from another era (re his Ordon Welles movie). I don't know why more actors don't go to France and learn French when their careers don't fit Hollywood fashions. Harvey Keitel did it when he was scorned in his early career. Didn't Kristen Scott Thomas as well? And there's certainly a dearth of good looking French actors (not actresses) right now.

July 8, 2011 | Unregistered Commenteradri
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