End of the line for the peo­ple’s ban­dit

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - FILM REVIEWS -

SALVATOREGIULIANO Di­rected by Francesco Rosi. Star­ring Salvo Ran­done, Frank Wolff. Club, IFI, Dublin, 122 min July 5, 1950. Ital­ian and in­ter­na­tional press de­scend upon a court­yard where the bul­letrid­dled corpse of Si­cil­ian ban­dit Sal­va­tore Gi­u­liano has been dis­cov­ered. Some say he was an out­law; oth­ers say a par­ti­san.

Francesco Rosi lets view­ers do their own de­tec­tive work. This land­mark 1961 film freeze­frames a so­ciopo­lit­i­cal mo­ment be­tween law­less­ness and a gen­uine pos­si­bil­ity for change.

We rarely see Gi­u­liano, but we track his move­ments us­ing field ra­dio; we note the cur­fews im­posed in the hope of catch­ing him; we dodge gun­fire from a hill­side adorned by an Amer­i­can flag; and we follow the troops into his vil­lage, where the men are rounded up.

The di­rec­tor’s narration holds to­gether this com­plex, frag­mented por­trait of the re­la­tion­ship be­tween Si­cily’s cit­i­zens, the Mafia, and gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials.

This is what Rosi, who was once de­scribed by critic Derek Mal­colm as “the heavy conscience of Ital­ian cin­ema”, does best. A com­mit­ted Marx­ist and card-car­ry­ing Com­mu­nist un­til 1981, Rosi has, since 1952’s Anita Garibaldi biopic Red Shirts, chron­i­cled Ital­ian cor­rup­tion more pow­er­fully than any other film-maker. Rossi’s de­pic­tions of skul­dug­gery helped shape the mod­ern gang­ster film. His oeu­vre’s shadow casts long across Roberto Sa­viano’s Go­mor­rah in par­tic­u­lar.

Sal­va­tore Gi­u­liano marks a cross­roads for Rosi and for Ital­ian cin­ema. Its neo-re­al­ism harks back to clas­sic Ital­ian cin­ema of the 1950s, but the film equally ges­tures west­ward to con­tem­po­ra­ne­ous Jean Luc Go­dard, south­ward to The Bat­tle of Al­giers and on­wards to the car­ni­va­lesque of Fellini: a se­quence de­pict­ing a vil­lage of shriek­ing women as they charge at the au­thor­i­ties would not seem out of place in Amar­cord.

Non-pro­fes­sional lo­cal ac­tors work­ing in the lo­ca­tions where Gi­u­liano lived just 11 years ear­lier lend an ethno­graphic sheen and raw­ness, not un­like the post-war make-and-do of Rome, Open City.

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