Criterion's essay on Salvatore Giuliano.
With Salvatore Giuliano (1961), Francesco Rosi developed the style and method that would make him, during the sixties and seventies, the greatest political filmmaker of his time. If Sergei Eisenstein could be considered the master of political cinema in the first half of the twentieth century, Rosi, in a way his peer, offers a totally different approach to the realities of power. Joseph Goebbels, allegedly an admirer of the Russian director’s films, would have been unable to endorse Rosi’s analytical conclusions. Eisenstein uses the tools of propaganda, playing chiefly on emotion and a Manichean view of the world. Rosi, though able to provoke deeply sensitive reactions from his spectators, always manages to make them think by tracking down and exposing the lies that obscure the inquiries and the scandals of our societies. His filmography can be viewed as a vast panorama of the historical past of his country, as well as its present.Influenced by both Italian neorealism and the American crime-film tradition (from Jules Dassin to Elia Kazan), Rosi had worked as an assistant director with such filmmakers as Luchino Visconti, Michelangelo Antonioni, and Mario Monicelli before striking out on his own as writer and director with two films, La sfida (The Challenge, 1958) and I magliari (1959), the first situated in Naples and the second among Italian immigrant cloth sellers in Hamburg. Having mastered his craft, Rosi inaugurated with Salvatore Giuliano a new kind of realism that, while strongly influenced by neorealism, went beyond its immediate model by examining such issues as power and the relationships between the law and lawbreakers, while also shedding light on the causes and consequences that determine the ways in which society functions.