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Modernist Master: The Cinema of Francesco Rosi 

July 8, 2010 - August 28, 2010

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Three Brothers, July 8

Like all the great modern Italian directors, Francesco Rosi has roots in neorealism; he apprenticed with, most famously, Luchino Visconti on La terra trema as well as on Bellissima and Senso, which he cowrote. Yet Rosi is like no other director. An artist with a passionate commitment to truth, he is never for a moment fooled into thinking he has found it. Rosi constructs his films, mostly thrillers and political exposés, as dramatic inquiries, frequently into real situations, always into real social forces—the forces of corruption. Born in 1922 in Naples, he is a man of the South whose character was shaped by the unholy alliances that prevail there, and the dichotomies of power they perpetuate. And this is how character is shaped in his films, from a vendor who gainsays the mob to the Sicilian bandit/guerilla Salvatore Giuliano who challenges all Italy; from the politics of poverty in Christ Stopped at Eboli to the poverty of politics in Three Brothers.

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.”

Judy Bloch

Thursday, July 8, 2010
7:00 p.m. Three Brothers
Francesco Rosi (Italy, 1981). Three brothers—a lawyer, a radical, and an idealist—return to the South for their mother’s funeral in Rosi’s elegiac examination of ‘70s Italy. “A great film . . . extraordinarily beautiful.”—David Denby (113 mins)

Friday, July 9, 2010
7:00 p.m. The Challenge
Francesco Rosi (Italy, 1958). A smalltime smuggler hopes to expand his business—but doesn’t bargain on the Mafia—in Rosi’s first feature, a striking example of late neorealism. (95 mins)

Friday, July 9, 2010
8:55 p.m. The Swindlers
Francesco Rosi (Italy, 1959). Alberto Sordi is an Italian swindler in Germany who shows a fellow countryman how to “participate” in the postwar German Economic Miracle. A fascinating glimpse into Europe’s postwar urban culture, shot in the strip clubs, jazz bars, and rundown docks of Hamburg and Hannover. (107 mins)

Sunday, July 11, 2010
7:00 p.m. The Mattei Affair
Francesco Rosi (Italy, 1972). The life and suspicious death of Italy’s legendary leftist oil czar Enrico Mattei (“Mao was right”) forms the basis of this Citizen Kane for the Enron set, a crackling political thriller about oil, power, and capitalism. Winner, Cannes Palme d’Or. (118 mins)

Friday, July 16, 2010
7:00 p.m. Salvatore Giuliano
Francesco Rosi (Italy, 1961). Salvatore Giuliano was a real-life Sicilian bandit turned Mafia boss turned guerrilla fighter in Sicily’s war for independence. Rosi dissects his life and times in this elliptical look at violence, the Mafia, and the State. (107 mins)

Friday, July 16, 2010
9:05 p.m. The Moment of Truth
Francesco Rosi (Italy, 1965). Rosi’s definitive cinematic treatment of bullfighting, “rendered with vivid brilliance by this uncommonly unsentimental director.”—Time Out (110 mins)

Sunday, July 18, 2010
5:00 p.m. Hands over the City
Francesco Rosi (Italy, 1963). Rod Steiger is a ruthless Napoli property developer busy trying to wipe the blood off his hands (or buy off someone to do it for him) when a slum building collapses. “Tough and forthright...totally convincing as an analysis of civic corruption.”—Tony Rayns. (110 mins)

Saturday, July 24, 2010
8:40 p.m. Illustrious Corpses
Francesco Rosi (Italy, 1976). Rosi called this detective thriller/political exposé “a trip through the monsters and monstrosities of power,” as a detective hunts for truth, and discovers far-ranging corruption. “One of the best political conspiracy films of the ‘70s.”—Pacific Cinematheque (120 mins)

Sunday, July 25, 2010
7:00 p.m. Christ Stopped at Eboli
Francesco Rosi (Italy, 1979). Anti-fascist writer/doctor Carlo Levi’s memoirs provide the source material for this quiet epic about Levi’s 1935 exile in a small southern town. “I was completely absorbed by what I was seeing….The audience seemed hushed, as if at a concert where the musicians were playing very softly.”—Pauline Kael (151 mins)

Sunday, August 1, 2010
5:00 p.m. More Than a Miracle
Francesco Rosi (Italy/France, 1967). Spanish prince Omar Sharif prefers sport to marriage, until he meets bewitching peasant lass Sophia Loren, in Rosi’s unexpected detour into romantic fantasy and comic fable, set in 17th century Italy. “Splashy and beautiful.”—Pauline Kael (103 mins)

Saturday, August 7, 2010
8:10 p.m. Lucky Luciano
Francesco Rosi (Italy, 1973). Gian Maria Volonté is the Italian American gangster of the title, on the rise and on the run—and, hints Rosi, well-connected to U.S. officials. “The finest movie made about the Mafia.”—Norman Mailer (115 mins)

Sunday, August 8, 2010
5:00 p.m. Just Another War
Francesco Rosi (Italy/Yugoslavia, 1970). During World War I, an upper-crust general orders his troops into a no-win battle, with predictable results, in Rosi’s fiercely anti-militaristic work, an Italian Paths of Glory or Farewell to Arms. (101 mins)

Thursday, August 12, 2010
7:00 p.m. Chronicle of a Death Foretold
Francesco Rosi (Italy/France, 1987). Rosi adapts Gabriel García Marquez’s famous novel on machismo, murder, and “the forces that can transform a rational man into an assassin” (Rosi), set and filmed in Columbia and starring Rupert Everett. “An absorbing and unusual murder mystery.”—Time Out (110 mins)

Saturday, August 21, 2010
8:30 p.m. To Forget Palermo
Francesco Rosi (Italy/France, 1990). Rosi’s first English-language film moves from New York to Palermo, following an ambitious politician (James Belushi) who comes afoul of the Mafia when he tries to legalize drugs. Music by Ennio Morricone. (110 mins)

Thursday, August 26, 2010
7:00 p.m. Neapolitan Diary
Francesco Rosi (Italy, 1992). Thirty years after making Hands Over the City, Rosi returns to Naples in this documentary “sequel” that captures the beauty, decay, and suffering of his native city.

Saturday, August 28, 2010
8:30 p.m. The Moment of Truth
Francesco Rosi (Italy/Spain, 1965). See July 16. (110 mins)


Series curated by Susan Oxtoby. We are indebted to former Publications Director Judy Bloch for her notes on Francesco Rosi, originally prepared for a 1997 retrospective at PFA.

PFA wishes to thank the following individuals and institutions for their assistance with this retrospective: Camilla Cormanni and Rosaria Folcarelli, Cinecittà Luce S.p.A.; Amelia Carpenito, Italian Cultural Institute of San Francisco; Jim Sinclair, Pacific Cinematheque, Vancouver.