Film: Double Bill

Ventura Pons, Director of `Caresses', on his Ideal Cinematic Pairing; Rocco e i Suoi Fratelli (Rocco and his Brothers) Dir. Luchino Visconti (1960) Deconstructing Harry Dir. Woody Allen (1997)
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The Independent Culture
THESE TWO films, both of which I admire a lot, show two contrasting views regarding life. And they couldn't be more different. Rocco and his Brothers, the Visconti masterpiece, is a film with a strong political and social compromise, offering a powerful glimpse of a family group that emigrates from its land and is facing an unknown society.

Deconstructing Harry is much more about the individual in a place he has known for ever (but is so unknown, at the same time). Allen is so great with the portrait of the urban man, alone with his problems and relating with others. Nobody has been able to explain it as he does - and every time in a more assured style, by the way.

Both films are masterpieces in their genre and they reflect ideas and face reality that belongs to different worlds, so that's why it should be great fun to see them together. And also very interesting, as one is a drama and the other one a comedy. I like both genres, and it would be fine to look to them as drama and comedy are both sides of the coin of life.

Visconti has been one of the most important European film-makers. Just as Allen is in America. I believe that nowadays in Europe we are the sons of both cultures, as we have grown up in the knowledge of both cinemas. The Americans most probably don't have this double fascination with cinematic and social references, but I am not sure.

Rocco explains a strong realistic scenario (and also a little bit romantic, in a way), the problems of a working-class family; a mother with her four sons, arriving in Milan from Calabria, the poor southern Italy. It explores the different ways in which the brothers fight and the ways in which they integrate within the growing neo-capitalistic society of the Italian Fifties. The film has a brilliant style: the way Visconti introduces those different chapters of each son is so well constructed. Each son is given his own narrative. The dramatic game is powerfully constructed. And its progressive ideology is quite clear. In this film we meet a mature Visconti, the great director, who uses his aristocratic background, his great sense for drama (and melodrama), his taste for music, paintings, culture - to serve a story with a real social meaning.

The Allen film is the reverse, but very interesting too. He makes a continuous entertainment (such a word for the Americans) of something so frightening as the loneliness and contradictions of modern man in big cities.

Deconstructing Harry is a highly intelligent film. Allen uses a great structure to amuse us with his neurosis, going continuously further and back in the story, breaking the traditional narrative rules. I have always liked people who break rules. And how great it is to follow the way he deconstructs with great virtuosity his (our) relations, the way he (we) behave, his (our) need of affection, communication, love and so on.

Interview by

Jennifer Rodger