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Salvatore Giuliano


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*Salvatore Giuliano* (1961, dir. Francesco Rosi) begins with an overhead shot of a dead young man in a town square. There will be many more overhead shots, sometimes of outlaws in the Sicilian mountains shooting at soldiers, sometimes of people on the town roofs looking down at the soldiers in the street. Rosi has a complicated story to tell, and he wants our intellectual attention rather than a close identification with the characters or issues. Much of the film, particularly the first half, is in documentary style, with a narrator giving us significant information.


The story moves back and forth in time from just after WWII to 1960. Giuliano is a young criminal who becomes a fighter in the Sicilian independence movement, but he and his men aren?t given the pardon they expect. Outlaws, the Mafia, the police, and various shadowy right-wing causes all get tangled together, and Rosi doesn?t pretend that he can unravel all the threads. The police and the caribinieri (soldiers) are rivals, even enemies, and if you can unravel who?s betraying whom, you have more information than the viewer and the filmmaker possess. A key event is the massacre of Communist sympathizers at a May Day picnic in a mountain meadow. Giuliano scarcely appears except as a dead man or an offscreen presence. The second half of the film deals with a long, complex, and indeed confused trial of Giuliano?s men, but the first half, with its splendid location photography, makes a stronger impression.


*Salvatore Giuliano* is not for those who would prefer a fictionalized, close-up, worked-out version of events. If you can accept the approach, Rosi?s direction is brilliant without calling attention to itself, and the editing fits the film?s style exactly. You?ll see lots of men running across beautiful landscapes. The scene in Giuliano?s town where the women try to prevent the soldiers from arresting their men is another strong and memorable scene. Gillo Pontecorvo?s *The Battle of Algiers* is only one film which seems influenced by *Salvatore Giuliano*.


Two caveats: it helps if you realize that ?Turiddu? is a diminutive of ?Salvatore? (this was confusing), and there are far too many white subtitles against a brilliant white background which makes them all but illegible. Most of the cast were local non-professionals, but Rosi does a great job of helping them to unselfconscious performances. Martin Scorsese named this one of his favorite ten films. Not many of us would, but Rosi is a very impressive director.

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