Rocco e I Suoi Fratelli

If, like me, you are frequently disappointed by the current crop of films – the endless franchises, sequels, remakes and the playing down to the audience – take heart, because we have other options in our cinematic travails. While there always are and will be new films that are worth our time, there is also a wealth of classic films out there just waiting for us to (re)discover them.

AAC CPA and I have made many such discoveries over the past year, first by supporting the work of Film Forum down on West Houston Street which, in its own words:

“. . . . is committed to presenting an international array of films that treat diverse social, political, historical and cultural realities. Unlike commercial cinemas that primarily “book” high-grossing, Hollywood films, Film Forum’s programs are thoughtfully curated, with attention to unique cinematic qualities, historical importance individually or within a genre and, particularly for documentaries, relevance to today’s world.”

Over the past few months alone, we’ve seen beautifully restored prints of Carol Reed’s The Third Man and Jules Dassin’s Rififi, as well as 20th Century Fox’s The Girl in the Golden Swing (remember that one, starring Joan Collins, Ray Milland and Farley Granger?) and Alain Renais’ Stavisky – all as part of Film Forum’s series on “Crime”.

Just this past weekend, we saw Two Women, for which Sophia Loren received the 1962 Oscar as best actress.

This afternoon, I attended the New York Film Festival to see another restored masterpiece, Luchino Visconti’s 1960 Rocco e I Suoi Fratelli (Rocco and His Brothers). This is the film that catapulted a very young (and impossibly beautiful) Alain Delon, as Rocco, to international stardom.

Rocco Artwork

Rocco - Alain
Alain Delon in Rocco and His Brothers

In brief, the film takes place in then modern-day Milan and is concerned with a family from the south that emigrates to the north in the hope of establishing a better life for themselves. The film epitomizes the neorealist style, which was inaugurated in 1943 with Visconti’s film, Ossessione.

The new 4K restoration – which is gorgeous, by the way – is especially notable for reinserting 3 sequences which were originally deleted for various reasons, but which are also essential to the story and, with respect to the 3rd restored scene, the denouement of the film. The restored version is stunning to watch, and a testament to the brilliance of cinematography of Giuseppe Rotunno. Fans of Italian film scores will immediately recognize the music of Nino Rota.

The acting mostly holds up very well, notwithstanding some overwrought emotive scenes but, perhaps, that’s the Italian way. It is, however, the kind of film that immediately absorbs you from the first shot of a train arriving in Milan to the last shot of a child skipping and running along a street while a mournful Italian canzone plays in the background. Rocco and His Brothers will get under your skin and will stay with you long after the house lights have come up.

Rocco and His Brothers opens for a 3-week engagement at the Film Forum on Friday, October 9th. I expect that it can be seen nationwide in limited release as well.

CULTURAL TIP: Film Forum/Rocco e I Suoi Fratelli

A Little Taste of Paris Down in Soho

Gentle Readers:

Who knew that I’d be blogging for a 2nd time in the past 12 hours, but I wanted to share our day with you and, also, pivot towards the other two prongs (“PRONGS”???) of this blog: food and art. I hope you won’t mind.

First of all, today presented a bit of a challenge, as it was the housekeeper’s day to be here and, although she doesn’t mind when we’re underfoot, AAC CPA doesn’t care for it at all. Please understand, we have a fabulous housekeeper – Nalini – and she’s been with us for more years that we can count. Nay, AAC just likes to have the place – the entire place, that is – to himself. So he’d rather clear out than share it. The fact that he shares it with me is a minor miracle, in fact.

NOTE: If opera isn’t your thing, please skip to below the CULTURE TIP below. 🙂

So, our first stop today was the Metropolitan Opera, where we’d been invited to a “working rehearsal” of Il Trovatore, with Anna Netrebko and Dimitri Hvorostovsky in the leading roles. We are very fortunate to be able to attend these rehearsals, as I very much enjoy the opera. AAC CPA is a bit more discerning. Yes, it’s true he’s attended something like 6 Ring Cycles over the years, but ask him to attend a mediocre performance of La Boheme and he’ll go right to sleep.

A working rehearsal, unlike a dress rehearsal or regular performance, means that there will be stops, things will be cleaned up, lights will be set and who knows what other mayhem may occur. Sure enough, there were some interesting repeats today. And you should have heard that Anvil Chorus!! And those men who worked the anvils – mamma mia!!!!

Anvil Chorus
See what I mean?

Madame Netrebko was in fabulous voice, even for a working rehearsal. And her core strength must be awesome, as she slowly lowered herself onto one knee as she sang a beautifully shaped phrase without any stress whatsoever on her beautiful voice. Talk about star quality!!

Anna Nebtrebko in Il Trovatore at Salzburg

We were very fortunate to be able to hear Hvorostovsky. He was diagnosed with a brain tumor in June and canceled all summer performances so that he could begin immediate treatment. While his vocal cords were unimpaired, he was having severe balance issues, which kept him off the stage. While our sopranos faint, jump off parapets, and often portray the weaker sex, we like our baritones sturdy. As it turns out, he’s been able to appear in the 1st three performances of this run of Trovatore, after which he’ll return to London for further treatment. We send him our best and hope for a complete and permanent recovery.

Dimitri Hvorostovsky in Il Trovatore at the Met

We will be at his 3rd performance, which is on Saturday afternoon, October 3rd and, if you have any interest at all, you can attend, too. Or, at least you be there as a part of the Met’s Live in HD series. Cinemas all over the world will have a live transmission of this performance, with lots of fun looks backstage during the breaks. Tickets are around $22.00 (whereas you’d probably pay between $230 – $340 for an orchestra seat at the Met). A good deal, I’d say.


We stayed at the Met ’til the first break, in the middle of Act I, Scene iii (Azucena had just admitted that she’d thrown the wrong baby – her own son!!! – into the fire – don’t ask!), and decided it was time to head downtown for a little taste of Paris in Soho. By that, I mean we decided to have lunch on the patio at Laduree. Do you know it or have you, perhaps, eaten or shopped there when you were in Paris? It’s an institution and you really know that you’re in Paris when you enter its doors. Before you can get to the restaurant, though, you have to pass through the patisserie, which just made my mouth water as I typed that word.

The Laduree in Soho has a lovely shaded patio, where we sat and enjoyed a leisurely lunch of club sandwiches. All around us, people were chatting in French and, if you closed your eyes and took a bite of your sandwich, you would swear you were on the Rue de Rivoli or the Champs-Élysées. It was that good. And, in fact, here’s AAC CPA anticipating his lunch:

Yes, it’s AAC CPA at Laduree

And here’s lunch:

Laduree Club Sandwich

Let me just say that Laduree didn’t let us down. We had a very civilized meal on their beautiful patio between the Il Trovatore and the next Italian experience we were about to have.


After our delightful lunch, it was time to turn our attention to the world of Italian neorealism. Our new favorite movie house in New York, Film Forum, has just started a Vittorio De Sica retrospective, and this afternoon we went to see what is arguably his greatest film, Ladri di Biciclette (Bicycle Thieves). It is a film that we’ve known about for many years, but just saw for the first time today. Almost plotless, it shows the desperate circumstances in which the working class found itself in post-war Italy. A somber and tragic film and yet laced throughout with moments of humor. Check it out here:

CULTURE TIP: Bicycle Thieves at Film Form

And that was our day. When we got back to the apartment, the place was so clean that you could eat off of the floors. That’s no joke – Nalini is that good.

Now begins the task of packing for London and our crossing on Queen Mary 2. We leave for JFK in 36 hours. Tick, tock, everyone!!