Salvatore Giuliano - Classic Film Pick
Naples-born Francesco Rosi built on the filmmaking experiences he shared working as assistant director to such great Italian filmmakers such as Luchino Visconti and Michelangelo Antonioni. With "Salvatore Giuliano" Rosi deconstructs neorealist methodologies toward an authentic form of epic historic "psychodrama." Made in 1961, it was Rosi's fourth film. To tell the story of the 27-year-old Sicilian folk-hero bandit whose bullet-riddled cadaver mysteriously appeared in a Castelvetrano courtyard on July 5, 1950, Rosi convinced natives of Giuliano's home village of Montelepre to recreate incidents they'd lived through when Giuliano was alive. Filming in the exact houses, streets, and surrounding hills where Giuliano commanded his ragtag army of guerrilla soldiers fighting for post-war Sicilian independence, Rosi attains a "proof of reality" that is unimaginable until you experience it firsthand. Told out of chronological order, the film is didactic without giving way to political propaganda. Past events and forward-moving narrative events weave randomly in vividly choreographed sequences that frame the region's macro/micro reality of Sicilian experience.
The most surprising aspect is Rosi's refusal to glorify his title character, but rather to expose all sides of a deeply traditional society pulled between military, criminal, and disparate political factions. We only see Giuliano's face in death. During sequences where the bandit leads his gang against Italy's carabinieri and separatist socialist groups, Giuliano wears a long white lightweight coat that blends with Sicily's arid landscape. Rosi's virtuosic compositions include lengthy, static, deep-space shots that capture a breadth of social communication from a shrewdly subjective viewpoint. His frequent use of a bird's-eye imagery surreptitiously puts the viewer into the mindset of Salvatore Giuliano who hides in the hills overlooking Montelepre.
"Salvatore Giuliano" influenced directors like Gillo Pontecorvo, Glauber Rocha, Francis Ford Coppola, and Martin Scorsese. It is truly a seminal film whose innovative cinematic inventions breed insight into a complicated cultural reality. There are no actors acting in "Salvatore Giuliano," only people living and dying for what they believe.
Rated R. 109 mins. (B) (Three Stars - out of five/no halves)
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