Tag Archives: alain delon

Brotherly Love

[This is my second entry in the Blind Spot Series hosted by Ryan of The Matinee.]

Family sucks. Seriously. You’re born into it—no choice, no argument—and it shapes you, for better or worse. You’re totally dependent on it. It cultivates a sense of responsibility in you, of loyalty and debt. No matter how flawed or fucked up or frustrating your family members are, you still have to accept them as a fundamental part of your life. Your family can please or pain you, but (even through their absence) they are always there.

These truths are at the core of Rocco and His Brothers (1960), Luchino Visconti’s epic of family dysfunction. In its representation of the Parondi brothers, the film captures the thorny coupling of love and hate that characterizes most sibling relationships. The brothers brawl, then reconcile; they hold one another up, then let one another down. Suffocated by poverty, each brother maps out his own dreams: a new apartment, a steady paycheck, fame in the boxing ring. But none can avoid the downward pull of family obligation.

The brother who pulls the most is Simone. As played by Renato Salvatori, he’s a model of blinkered machismo, incapable of adjusting his ambitions (both as boxer and ladies’ man) to fit reality. Initially charming, he quickly outs himself as a manipulative lecher, then slides into delusion and depravity throughout the remainder of the film. He’s the family instigator, knocking down his brothers and ex-girlfriend like dominoes, letting his resentment for Rocco destroy him from the inside.

Rocco’s played by beautiful French star Alain Delon, and he’s the family dark horse. Initially modest and hard-working, his star rises while Simone’s fades: he gets the boxing career, the pride, and (for a time) the girl. But like the rest of his brothers—the newlywed Vincenzo, the peacemaker Ciro, and the preteen Luca—he’s dragged into Simone’s toxic orbit. Violence flows between them like a contagion as, courtesy of the film’s precise structure, we watch their respective subplots grow and intertwine for three rich hours.

For all its fixation on family values, Rocco and His Brothers is never sentimental. In Visconti’s Neorealist vision, Milan is a greasy collection of piazzas and housing complexes; economic mobility is a pleasant myth; and the Parondi brothers are typically clad in wifebeaters and their own sweat. Discontent germinates out of cramped apartment life to the tune of Nino Rota’s often tense, sometimes warm, always sensual score. It’s a seamy, uncomfortable depiction of working-class life that’s brimming with uncomfortable truths.

With this radical honesty and thematic breadth, it’s no surprise that Rocco was a huge influence on the cinema of New Hollywood. Descendants of the Parondi brothers are everywhere, most visibly in The Godfather—a film whose Rota score also has a leitmotif in common with Rocco’s—and Raging Bull, another film about boxing, self-destruction, and sibling rivalry that couldn’t exist without Visconti. Following in Rocco’s stead, these films present unvarnished family life, with all its respites and tragedies, where the only fate worse than being together is being apart.

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Link Dump: #11

Between the post-Halloween blues and the imminent end of classes, I’ve been feeling a lot like our old pal Stimpy lately. If all goes well, I should return to blogging in the near future. In the meantime, I’ve assembled a pretty half-assed list of recommended readings and assorted linkage. Maybe this can help us all survive the deadening onslaught of early November.

  • Jenni Miller of Cinematical writes about whether we should drop the term “torture porn.”
  • This is very, very awesome. It’s a post entitled “My son is gay” from Nerdy Apple Bottom that’s been traveling all over the Internet. You should read it, if you haven’t already!
  • OK, it’s confirmed: George Takei is the most awesome surviving member of the original Star Trek cast. Watch him tell that virulently homophobic school board member, “You are a douchebag.” (To be fair, though, Leonard Nimoy is also awesome.)
  • Through the magic of Tumblr, we have “4 Reasons Hermaphrodite Is A Derogatory Word.” Seriously, everyone: it’s intersexed.
  • Can you believe Alain Delon is 75 years old? Well, he’ll always be that fresh-faced Tom Ripley or Jef Costello to me.
  • References to The Tempest plus a review of He Ran All the Way starring John Garfield? Count me in, Acidemic!
  • Here’s a bitingly clever but depressing comic about sexism on the Internet, from Gabby’s Playhouse.
  • I love Edgar G. Ulmer, so of course I love learning about his later obscure movies like The Cavern (1965). MUBI fills us in.
  • Oregon Trail + zombies = Organ Trail, aka “YES.”
  • Here’s an article about Twitter’s “#ihadanabortion” hashtag.

We haven’t had much activity recently in the realm of weird search terms; all I could turn up for the past week was the nastily anti-Semitic “jews are animals,” the icky and not really answerable “do grown ups materbate to barbie dolls,” and finally the delightfully baffling “crishmas pussie.” I want to imagine that “crishmas pussie” is an annual tradition in some distant, insular community. Merry Crishmas Pussie, everyone!

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