Sunday, January 28, 2007

Salvatore Giuliano

1962, Italy, directed by Francesco Rosi

Salvatore Giuliano, the film that brought Francesco Rosi to international attention, is a fascinating examination of the career of a notorious outlaw/mafioso, as well as of the post-war history of Italy, and Sicily in particular. It's also a meditation on the problems of truth and objectivity, from both the filmmaker's and the historian's perspectives as Rosi attempts to illustrate the realities behind the events that marked Giuliano's career. To this end, the director blends voiceover narration that sets out the broader political framework (linking the strength of the mafia to other developments, including the aftermath of the Second World War in Sicily) with careful reconstructions of individual events and the trial of one of Giuliano's closest associates.

Though Rosi's aims are ultimately quite different, the influence of neo-realism is clear in the the use of the actual locations of Giuliano's life and death, while the performers are almost all non-professionals (given that the film was made just a decade or so after Giuliano's death, that must have made for an interesting filming atmosphere). The portrait of a society with a deeply conflicted and unresolved relationship with the outlaw elements in its midst is very powerful, while Rosi's critique of the northern establishment's poor understanding of the Italian south comes through unmistakably. The film is captured in beautiful black-and-white, with some striking shot choices - the overhead angle that opens the film and its counterpart, later on, that looks down on the dead Giuliano in his bed, are especially compelling.

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Boston, Massachusetts, United States