Saturday Editor’s Pick: The Mattei Affair (1972)

by on August 7, 2011Posted in: Editor's Pick

Playing Sat Aug 13 at 2:00, 4:30, 6:50, 9:15 at BAMcinématek [Program & Tix]  


Francesco Rosi’s films continue at BAM thru August 21. Recommended reading: Dan Callahan’s feature for Alt Screen and Michael Ciment’s celebration for The Guardian. Ciment argues that Francis Ford Coppola, Oliver Stone, Ken Loach, and Martin Scorsese owe a great deal to the Italian director.  


Stone is an on-record fan of The Mattei Affair, as are directors Bernardo Bertolucci and Alex Cox, who calls it “the Italian Citizen Kane.”  


Cox, for Film Comment (Jan/Feb 2006):

In this, the Berlusconi era, hardly any political films are made in Italy (or, for that matter, anywhere else!). But a generation ago, Italian cinema was perhaps the most radical in the world, and one of its most highly regarded writer-directors was Francesco Rosi. Today Rosi is best known for his 1984 film version of Bizet’s Carmen, but his career consists mainly of political thrillers. Rosi was a master of the genre, just as Melville was of the film noir. Of all his thrillers, The Mattei Affair is the best.


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Francesco Rosi Retro at BAMcinématek (Aug 03-21)

by on August 2, 2011Posted in: Essay

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Saturday Editor’s Pick: Salvatore Giuliano (1962)

by on August 1, 2011Posted in: Editor's Pick

Playing Sat Aug 6 at 2:00, 4:30, 6:50, 9:15 at BAMcinématek [Program & Tix]


Judy Bloch’s program notes for the BAM retrospective of Italian director Francesco Rosi, which opens Wed, Aug 3 and continues through Sun, Aug 21:

A committed leftist and an equally committed modernist, Francesco Rosi offers a body of films whose political and emotional impact is almost purely visual. Two great cinematographers—Gianni Di Venanzo for the black-and-white films and Pasqualino De Santis for the films in color—are his important collaborators. Pauline Kael wrote, “Rosi has one of the greatest compositional senses in the history of movies. . . . We’re led by the camera, and we trust its movement. Something more is always going to be revealed. Rosi is discovering life.”


Dan Callahan in his essay for Alt Screen:

A framing sequence re-stages the famous, final photograph of the real Giuliano and is then intercut with chronologically shuffled scenes inspired by the then recent past. Rosi’s oblique and elliptical portrait of his largely unseen protagonist is also, emphatically, a call to arms for the mezzogiorno, and Rosi mainly casts the film with non-professionals from the region, some of whom were actually involved in the events portrayed. Salvatore Giuliano is not the story of a man but the story of cities and countries and all of the people in them, and so it is necessarily more diffuse than most movies, and much harder to classify.


Rosi frames every shot in this film for maximum impact, and his compositions sometimes feel almost too balanced, flirting with mere pictorialism, but there is always a discernable intellectual query behind each image that makes us ponder where we are and why. Stubbornly, Rosi refuses to involve his audience in individual psychology, and he instinctively resists the safety net of narrative. The constantly moving formations of people on screen can seem like pure visual abstraction, but the questioning at the heart of Salvatore is concrete, dedicated to unearthing information; this is not at all an existential film, which would have put it in line with the smart-set fashion of its time.


Rosi specializes in scenes of violence and misery that he makes somewhat beautiful with his camera. It’s as if by aestheticizing suffering he wishes not only to make it instructive, to show it is as the avoidable result of specific political vendettas and cover-ups, but also, through his camera, to ennoble it.


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