Most people interested in the great days of post-war Italian cinema know the names Rossellini, Fellini and Visconti. But they may have forgotten about Francesco Rosi, once called “the heavy conscience of the Italian cinema”.
His most celebrated film, Salvatore Giuliano, not available in this country for many years, has now been restored and re-released. Made in 1962, it is one of the most powerful films ever made about Sicily.
It follows the career and downfall of the titular bandit, structured around his violent demise in 1950. Unusually, Giuliano himself is hardly on screen. He is seen as a corpse in the opening sequence, with an official reading a description of his death. Rosi merely provides evidence as to his life and times, asking his watchers to interpret for themselves. Without a single mention of the word “Mafia”, Rosi created a crime movie as fascinating as the Godfather trilogy.
Salvatore Giuliano is a great film and Rosi a director whose detailing of corruption is unsurpassed. He made other terrific films, such as The Mattei Case and Illustrious Corpses, but this one has never been bettered.
Salvatore Giuliano is at the ICA, from Sept 26 until Oct 2, 2014