A fantastically poetic existentialist masterpiece; One of the ten most gorgeous technicolor films ever made
Phew! What a beautiful film! I'd rank this as one of the most awe-inspiringly composed and photographed color films of all time. You've never seen Mastroianni, until you've seen him in this film, walking around like an iconic black ghost in the darkly hued existentialist-to-the-nth-degree technicolor universe of post-war Italy created by Zurlini and legendary DP Giussepe Rottuno. What a stroke of genius to contrast the bleakest and most depressing of subjects possible with the most fantastically poetic and gorgeous technicolor cinematography this side of `Black Narcissus.' This is one of Rottuno's finest works ever: full of absolutely breathtaking deeper than deep blacks and colors that seem to have sprouted from some otherworldly weathered, neo-realist hallucination. And what timeless subtly paced, unerringly poetic, intelligent and completely uncompromising direction by Zurlini, the forgotten genius of Italian cinema, whose style in this film can be roughly described as a unique melange of neo-realism, Antonioni, Michael Powell, Jacques Becker, early Pasolini and early Bertolucci. It's easy to imagine how easily this story of a tubercular writer grieving the death of his younger brother through a series of flashbacks could've turned into not much more than a melodramatic tearjerker; yet in Zurlini's hands and through the incredible, tour-de-force performance of Marcello Mastroiani in the lead role, the Marxist-proleteriat-plight-of-the-poor sentimentality at the film's core transcends itself and becomes a deeply affecting, painful and ultimately cathartic meditation on death, despair, and the possibilities of redemption in the direst of circumstances.
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