ROCCO E I SUOI FRATELLI  directed by Luchino Visconti (Italy, 1960)

Alain Delon is French but he gets through the whole of this three hour Italian movie without anyone noticing. He also manages to infiltrate the Parondi family who relocate from the south to Milan in search of work.

They might just as well all be foreigners considering the lukewarm welcome they receive.

Rocco, his battle axe of a mother (Kratrina Paxinou) and his four brothers are mostly reduced to menial jobs and a hand to mouth existence. You wouldn’t call their living standards grinding poverty but they certainly don’t find the nothern industrial city to be brimming over with oportunities.

Simone (Rinalto Salvatori) finds an outlet in a boxing club and wins a few fights but his lack of self discipline means he is destined to be just another would be champion who ‘ could have been a contender’.

Rocco is fit and healthy but he’s no Rocky so  it comes as a surprise when he fares better in the ring than his brother.

Mark Wahberg spent four years of training to get the muscular physique to play ‘Irish’ Micky Ward in The Fighter but there’s no sign that Delon has done anything more than stay in trim. He makes for an unlikely  boxer but as he has cheekbones to die for and the delicate demeanour of James Dean  you are prepared to suspend disbelief.

In any event, the main combat is over which of these two rival siblings get the girl. Nadia (Annie Giradot) is a local loose woman who Simone initially takes up with then drops. Her head is then turned by less macho Rocco and these two soon become an item.

Bizarrely, this causes Simone to see red and he gathers a group of cronies to reap some warped vengeance. It all culminates in Simone giving Rocco a savage beating but not before violently raping Nadia. Given this brutal and unjust treatment you’d expect Rocco to seek his own form of revenge but instead he takes the view that if he is so mad for Nadia, he can have her. So much for chivalry!

Visconti’s movie is an embodiment of the social tensions of the time. Being honest to his characters is more crucial than contrived plot devices and the naturalism of the movie is a precursor of neorealism.

It’s a bit of long haul that requires some patience. Taking advantage of the pause button, I ended up watching it as a three part family saga which took the edge of the melodrama. Not the out and out classic I’d imagined.