Thursday, 2 October 2014
Blu-ray Review: Salvatore Giuliano
For my money, Francesco Rosi's 'Salvatore Giuliano' is a film rather than a documentary, but many would perhaps consider it to be a mixture of both. Whatever, it's an engrossing account of the legendary outlaw, with the real truth still tantalisingly out of reach.
Giuliano was 23 years of age when he was offered the role of Colonel by separatist group EVIS during the battle for Sicily's independence. By this age, Giuliano had already been an outlaw for two years, and had been forced to retreat to the mountains after killing a member of the cabinieri. Rosi's film begins with a shot of Giuliano's bloodstained body just before the media circus are beckoned in, and then switches back and forth in time with the actual figure of the outlaw taking a back seat for most of the running time. A trial to determine those responsible for the massacre of communists at Portella della Ginestri is impressively presided over by Salvo Randone's judge, merging with events leading up to Giuliano's death.
There's so much to take in here, as eye witness accounts conflict with the 'official version', making this an utterly compelling viewing experience. Giuliano's Robin Hood persona is but one topic open to debate with murder, kidnap and blackmail rearing their ugly heads amongst Salvatore's work for the poor, and the role of Pisciotta adds its own chapter to the story and it's quite a story!
Arrow Academy's Blu-ray (a dual format release also containing a DVD) features much to enthuse over regarding image quality and contributions from the director, academics, a relative of Giuliano and many more influential figures.
The film was restored by Cineteca di Bologna with the original camera negative scanned at 4K resolution. Digital grading was executed with particular care using a vintage copy as reference. As a result, 'Salvatore Giuilano' looks absolutely stunning, with Gianni di Venanzo's monochrome photography rich and full bodied. The level of detail here really is something to behold, with healthy skintones, nice inky blacks(check out the scenes shot during darkness) and the baking hot countryside a treat for the eyes. Reference quality, no less.
'Francesco Rosi On Salvatore Giuliano' comes next, being a 12 minute interview where the director talks about the reasons why the figure of Giuliano was absent for most of the film; how he directed the residents of Montalepre, and praises the work of DOP Gianni di Venanzo and Slavo Randone.
'The Sicilian Robin Hood' is a 14 minute featurette which focuses on Giuliano from the viewpoint of his nephew Giuseppe Sciortino. Giuseppe comments that his relative was a hero for the people of Sicily, comparing him to Che Guevara. He remarks that the fight to exercise the statute continues, and explains why Giuliano and his men could not have been responsible for the massacre whose victims included children. We also learn of the existence of top secret files in Rome, and why we'll have to wait until 2016 for another strand of the truth to emerge.
Arrow's Blu-ray is locked to Region B and available to buy now. 2014 has indeed been a productive year for UK Home Video releases, and 'Salvatore Giuliano' with its superb restoration and valuable supplementary material is a serious contender for your Best Of The Year list.