La Terra Trema (Luchino Visconti / Italy, 1948):

Subjugation, revolt, and dissolution are the movements, the style is a punctilious mixture of Flaherty burlap and Soviet poster. "The same age-old story of manís exploitation of man" is played on the Sicilian coast, a leisurely pan of the fishing village at early dawn contemplates a horizon lined with sails and lanterns. The primeval yoke of laborers versus wholesalers centers on the Valastro family (cf. Fordís Okies in The Grapes of Wrath), the unjust arrangement is challenged by the young hothead (Antonio Arcidiacono) whoís fresh off military service and "thinks differently." Being your own padrone is the dream, so down go the Judas scales at the market and up goes the rebelliously independent vessel. The businessmen, meanwhile, patiently wait for local resentment, crummy luck, and the harsh elements themselves to put the agitator back in his place. "Iíll bore a hole through you yet," says the worm to the stone. Luchino Viscontiís epic account of peasant defiance inflamed and squelched, where to live in poverty is to drown on dry land. The oppressive forces are colossal, the shackles of servility span generations, the system of greed is as enveloping as the stormy sea. The impressionable brother is tempted away by smugglers with American cigarettes, the flirty sister is seduced and readily abandoned by the carabinieri sergeant. "One by one, the treeís branches wither and fall," a process resumed in Rocco and His Brothers. Nets, barrels, battered stone and heavy gray skies add to the coarse-grained texture, yet Viscontiís splendiferous eye is not easily submerged: Ragged women are perched on windswept boulders and suddenly Seurat is evoked, Bellini is heard somehow not incongruously during a communal anchovy-salting gathering. (A doomed coupleís kiss is framed against a wall of cacti, with smoke from a locomotive filling the background.) The end of the line is the beginning of a new circle, razzing capitalists in an organization named "Ciclope." All thatís left is the protagonistís hard-won consciousness, along with the noble awkwardness of real-life fishermen enacting an aristocratís vision of their own struggle. Cinematography by G.R. Aldo. In black and white.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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