The widow Rosaria moves to Milano from Lucania with her 4 sons, one of whom is Rocco. The fifth son, Vincenzo, already lives in Milano. In the beginning, the family has a lot of problems, but everyone manages to find something to do.
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The failure, and even the hypocrisy, of traditional Catholic values to face up to and fix a bestial world. With this, Rocco is a masterful allegory (no film more clearly presages Scorsese), and it's nuanced enough to allow moments of pure joy to fill the cracks between tragedies. But you have to have a high tolerance for histrionics to go the full 5. Neo-realism could play so uncomfortably close to a soap opera.
The deeply designed Italian milieu is brought to naturalistic life by Visconti. There would be no Scorsese or Coppola without this master. A true representative for Italian cinema with this multifaceted illustration of gender and class in a diasporic context. My heart bleeds for every character here, in different ways.
Cinematography by Giuseppe Rotunno. "Desire" list: although not the "perfect" Visconti it's the perfect Delon vehicle, for his unrivalled beauty captured ecstatically by Rotunno camera and by the dramatization of his indomitable persona, that looks so good on the guys on the loose, in cinematic life.
After seeing this superb drama from Visconti and Fellini's Le notti di Cabiria I just came to the conclusion that these italian directors have created the most loveable prostitutes in cinema history. Nadia is such a melancholically and tragically beautiful character. Her last scene totally tear my heart out.
Nadia was the most sympathetic character in this to me. This is the only long Visconti film that felt a little too long IMHO but that may have just been my mood at the tim or because I prefer his costume period pieces to his early neo-realism work but all Visconti is good Visconti.
Five sons, five chapters, five metaphorical characters representing Conservatism, Progress, Realism, Despair and Hope. The scene of Annie Girardot's death is already in the annals of Cinema. Masterpiece.