The Subject Is Rosi

Sragow: In Italy and France in the '60s, there was a movement among you and Pontecorvo and Costa-Gavras and others to bring a "you are there" feeling to movies, combining documentary and feature-film techniques. You once told me that in Salvatore Giuliano, you wanted to provoke "psychodrama" by staging the actions in actual locations, with many of the real inhabitants. When the wives and mothers of arrested men scream "Assassins!" at the militia, or Giuliano's mother cries over his corpse, the scenes have a newsreel's rawness, but also an emotionalism that newsreels don't have. How did you achieve this new style?

Rosi: You must remember that Salvatore Giuliano was the first of these movies, in 1962; Pontecorvo's The Battle of Algiers was 1966, and Costa-Gavras' Z, 1969. In Salvatore Giuliano I combined the style of a document to that of interpretation and the construction of fiction without ever losing the sense of truth which that film needed. That is why I decided to shoot in the real places where those events took place little more than 10 years before. That is why I put together very few professional actors with many improvised actors chosen in the streets and houses of those places. That is why I spoke of a kind of "psychodrama." The women screaming "Assassins!" were the same who had screamed that in the same streets of Montelepre a decade before. And so, to interpret the role of the mother of Giuliano, I chose a farmer, mother of 10 sons, one of whom had been killed under similar circumstances to those in which Giuliano was killed.

Sragow: How important was it for you to have Charles Siragusa, the U.S. narcotics investigator who dogged Lucky Luciano, play himself in your movie? How much of a challenge is it to go between a nonprofessional in a pivotal part and actors like Gian-Maria Volonte?

Rosi: Actually, the use of a nonprofessional actor can bring a level of emotion and truth that very often excites and stimulates the professional actor. Charles Siragusa was the agent who had really chased Lucky Luciano for years. And in the movie he represented what he had been in life: the honest Sicilian against the degenerate and criminal Sicilian, who was interpreted with great talent by the great Volonte.

Sragow: Lucky Luciano is more of a character study than your other portraits of hidden political power -- Volonte plays the capo as a quietly bitter emperor in exile. Was this always your intention, or did it grow out of his performance?

Rosi: Both.

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