FAMILY DIARY (Cronaca familiare) (director/writer: Valerio Zurlini; screenwriters: Mario Missiroli/from novel “Two Brothers” by Vasco Pratolini; cinematographer: Giuseppe Rotunno; editor: Mario Serandrei; music: Goffredo Petrassi; cast: Marcello Mastroianni (Enrico), Jacques Perrin (Lorenzo), Salvo Randone (Salocchi), Serena Vergano (Hospital nun), Valeria Ciangottini (Enzina), Sylvie (Grandmother); Runtime: 115; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Goffredo Lombardo; MGM; 1962-Italy-in Italian and English with English subtitles )
“What saves it from morbidity is Marcello Mastroianni’s fine sensitive performance.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
It’s based on Vasco Pratolini’s semi-autobiographical novel “Two Brothers,” that’s set in Rome and Florence in the 1930’s and ’40s. Neglected and underrated Italian filmmaker Valerio Zurlini (“Black Jesus”/”Girl with a Suitcase”/ “Indian Summer”) can’t stop the drama from being heavy going and bleak, even though it has value as a good family drama. What saves it from morbidity is Marcello Mastroianni’s fine sensitive performance. It tells a sentimental tale about brothers separated from their mother at birth and after going their separate ways reuniting as young men and after their brief stay together and reconciliation, they must face tragedy.
The downbeat story is told in flashback through the eyes of Enrico (Marcello Mastroianni), a struggling journalist in Rome, in 1945, who receives a phone call in his newspaper office that his younger brother Lorenzo (Jacques Perrin) has died. This call jars Enrico’s memory back to 1918 when their mother dies of meningitis giving birth to Lorenzo and their soldier father is hospitalized from war wounds. Their impoverished but warm-hearted grandmother (Sylvie) unable to raise both kids on her own surrenders the youngest one Lorenzo to the wealthy baron of the Villa Rossa, who has his imperious butler Salocchi (Salvo Randone) raise him. Enrico is raised in poverty by his granny, while Lorenzo is raised in luxury. Things change for Lorenzo when the baron dies and the butler can no longer afford to raise the child, and Lorenzo goes out on his own to live in Florence. Though Lorenzo’s a gentleman, he’s without funds and has not been prepared to face life’s struggles. He has developed a taste for the good life but doesn’t have the talent to earn a living to afford his expensive wants. The brothers meet again in 1935 in Florence after a long separation, and begin a close and caring relationship with Enrico trying to be his brother’s protector. After their grandmother dies while in a home for the aged, the unemployed Enrico gets a newspaper job in Rome while the frail but handsome Lorenzo stays in Florence and marries. When Lorenzo comes down with an intestinal infection, Enrico pays to have him treated in a private clinic in Rome. The entire film has the grief-stricken Enrico trying to gets his feelings together about what it means that his hard-luck brother died of an untreatable disease at such a young age while he survives though raised under such trying circumstances.
The film forces you to concentrate on the the dialogue since there’s virtually no camera movement in this austere but beautifully shot film. The superb photography by cinematographer Giuseppe Rotunno creates a matching melancholy mood to the story with its dark-hued yellows and greens. Critics have noted that Rotunno used an impressive Impressionist style of photography, that gave the film a certain richness and grandeur.
REVIEWED ON 10/11/2007 GRADE: B-
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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