Finally available for the everyday cineaste, Francesco Rosi’s seminal career-starter ignited an entire epoch of political moviemaking—this is where Costa-Gavras, Pontecorvo, Jancsó, and even early Bertolucci found the iconic syntax and seething tone with which to patrol the streets of post-war Euro antipathy. The movie has the confidence of a lightning strike. With a graven straight face, Rosi beats many modernists to the punch by chronicling the career of the titular Sicilian insurrectionist-cum-bandit and at the same time never actually making him a character in the film. (Giuliano’s seen only in distant crowds of rebels, and as a corpse.) Instead, the social hellfire erupting around him—the peasants, the Mafia, the government, the police—is documented and dissected, in some of the era’s most eloquent deep-focus photography. The two-disc set comes equipped with two documentaries about Rosi, written appreciations by Scorsese, Coppola, and Fellini, and the actual 1950 newsreel reporting Giuliano’s assassination.
Who is Charley Bowers? If not quite a threat to the silent-era clown quadrumvirate of Chaplin-Keaton-Lloyd-Langdon, then a genuine forgotten oddity, discovered and retrieved from complete obscurity by the Cinémathèque de Toulouse and the Cinémathèque Québécoise. A veteran circus performer, Bowers began his career as a cartoonist—in the 1910s, he directed hundreds of Mutt and Jeff shorts—eventually producing live-action films that incorporated his own Keaton-esque character, flat-out slapstick, and eccentric stop-motion animation that makes him easily the most fluent frame-by-frame craftsman of the era. Bowers’s moments of surreal and inventive lunacy call the cards on stodgy contemporaries like Disney, Fleischer, and Willis O’Brien. This double-disc set runs from some of Bowers’s earliest assembly-line work (1917’s “Grill Room Express”) to his 1939 World’s Fair short for Joseph Losey, “Pete Roleum and His Cousins,” and beyond. Much is still unknown about Bowers, but this lost sub-cellar of film history is now open for exploration.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on April 6, 2004