Salvatore Giuliano

The title character of Francesco Rosi’s 1962 feature, a notorious real-life bandit who galvanized Sicily’s poor after World War II, is seen only as a corpse, an object to be venerated and investigated. How his bullet-riddled body ended up in Palermo’s town square, and who was responsible for the crime, isn’t clear. Rosi’s scrupulously researched journalistic expose, scripted with Franco Solinas (The Battle of Algiers), suggests there was a conspiracy between the state (local and national) and the Mafia, an alliance of convenience that safeguarded landowners and their interests. (The church, curiously, is missing from the presumed guilty.) Yet the film (unlike Michael Cimino’s lurid remake, The Sicilian) largely shies away from mythologizing Giuliano and his gang, who are depicted as petty hoodlums hired by the Mafia to gun down procommunist demonstrators. By staying objective, partly through an omniscient narration, Rosi invites us to appreciate the moral compromises plaguing high and low in the shifting political currents of postwar Sicily; we must sort out for ourselves the “truth” from the accounts of those who knew Giuliano. Still, there are plenty of visual clues that indicate Rosi’s sympathies in the crisp, austere cinematography (courtesy of Gianni di Venanzo, with an assist from Pasqualino De Santis): the crowd movements that recall Eisenstein, the grotesque close-ups of conspirators. Rosi’s hero, in true Marxist fashion, is not an individual but the Sicilian peasants, with their deep attachment to seemingly inhospitable environs. This is a key work from the Italian cinema of the 60s, and an antidote to Fellini’s and Visconti’s bourgeois ennui. Facets Multimedia Center, 1517 W. Fullerton, Saturday, June 14, 2:00, 773-281-4114. –Ted Shen

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): film still.