Rocco and His Brothers

Movie Information

In Brief: Luchino Visconti's 1960 film about a poor family coming to Milan to escape the dead-end poverty they found in the south is certainly entertaining. It's also overlong, messy, and an unwieldy mix of neo-realism and the new direction that Visconti was heading towards. It hasn't held up as well as has been generally accepted, but it's certainly worth a look. (I doubt anyone will blame you for polite laughter when the movie goes wildly operatic.)
Genre: Drama
Director: Luchino Visconti
Starring: Alain Delon, Renato Salvatori, Annie Girardot, Katina Paxinou, Max Cartier
Rated: NR

Although I can’t say I wasn’t entertained by Luchino Visconti’s Rocco and His Brothers (1960)—despite its behemoth three-hour running time—I’m not at all sure it’s anywhere near the great film its art-house cred suggests. It’s really more like a heavy-duty soap opera, and the film is ultimately not really aware that it constantly flirts with—and sometimes achieves—unintentional humor. Rocco and His Brothers is about a poor family from the Italian south who migrate to Milan to make their fortunes, and it’s perched somewhere in between Visconti’s neo-realist period (something that was always as much a practical consideration as an aesthetic one) and his later, more baroque works. It’s not entirely successful in either realm. The tone is operatic, which doesn’t quite suit the “lower depths” material. And for that matter, the material is on the simplistic side with the characters painted in very broad strokes. There are also moments, I’m afraid, where it’s hard not to think that Visconti’s primary interest is to let his camera linger over these striking young men. (There’s no denying that the young Alain Delon in particular is very striking indeed.) I have nothing against any of these elements per se, but I do think what you end up with is more an entertaining, overheated mish-mash than a great classic.

Classic World Cinema by Courtyard Gallery will present Rocco and His Brothers at 8 p.m. on Friday, March 16, at Phil Mechanic Studios, 109 Roberts St., River Arts District (upstairs in the Railroad Library). Info: 273-3332,


About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress from December 2000 until his death in June 2016. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

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