There goes the neighborhood; the Parondis in Milan. A neighbor's one-word description? "Africa!"
Long film, simple story: Rocco Parondi (Alain Delon in one of his breakthrough roles) and his three brothers, along with their mother (Oscar-winner Katina Paxinou) quit their southern hardscrabble farm to move to Milan, where eldest son Vincenzo already has a job and a fiancee. They immediately create a scene at Vincenzo's engagement party when the matriarch expects to move in with her full brood. Instead, they get thrown out into the street, and Vincenzo has to scramble to get them temporary housing. Starting with odd jobs like shoveling snow to earn their way, each brother ventures forth to seek his fortune. Rocco takes a variety of jobs and serves a stint in the army before following brother Simone (Renato Salvatori) into a boxing career. While Simone proved a gutless tomato can as a fighter, Rocco rises to contention.
Alain Delon and Annie Girardot in good times and bad.
Who's crucifying who?
Rocco's length is debatably justified by Visconti's novelistic ambition, but I couldn't help thinking that Warner Bros. could have told the same story just as well in half the time. It seems to be regarded as socially conscious in some essential way, as if "the city" or "modernity" is to blame for the Parondis' plight, but I'm not sure that Visconti himself actually felt that way about it. I detect no more innate social consciousness, much less any political consciousness, than I would in some American counterpart film like A Streetcar Named Desire or God's Little Acre -- I thought it safe to cover a lot of territory. As with many a "white trash" saga, the portrayal of human wretchedness and depravity seems to be an end unto itself. The climax of the Simone-Nadia storyline certainly seems designed to set a new standard for violence in an otherwise-respectable production, and that scene helped sell Rocco as a scandalous yet pretentious shocker when it invaded the U.S. in the summer of 1962.