Just watched this curious 1962 film, directed by Brunello Rondi and Paolo Heusch. Based on a novel by Pasolini, it has his fingerprints all over it, but that’s no bad thing, as this came during his most productive and effective period. And the film itself is very compelling, better than reviewers at the time gave it credit for, featuring quite exceptional cinematography. Any, here’s a contemporary review from La Stampa:
With Una vita violenta Pier Paolo Pasolini, author of the novel of the same title, returns to the same territory of his first film for inspiration. The directors are two young men, Brunello Rondi and Paolo Heusch, the first of whom has been a scriptwriter for Rossellini, the second director of Un uomo facile. The settings and tones are similar to those of Accattone, but this new Pasolinian film isn’t as good as that more more genuine and immediate work.
As readers know already, Una vita violenta tells the story of a boy from the suburbs, Tommaso, without education or a trade, who is willing to do anything. He’s the prototype of the proletarian existentialist, the generative cell of a Pasolini narrator. We see him committing serious acts of hooliganism at the service of neo-fascists and later under his own steam, with other boys just like him. Yet not all is thrown away… An encounter with a girl willing to get married seems make him want to become a man, but after contracting lung disease because of his violent lifestyle he is sent away to recuperate. In the sanitarium where is hospitalized, Tommaso begins to understand the value of life (“I was rich and did not know”), and moves from being a boy to becoming a man, beginning to develop a sense of brotherhood and the instinct for social struggle.
Resigned, Tommaso undermines what little health he has left in order to save a victim of the flood, then dies in the most bitter and pathetic manner, casting himself as the bad guy on his deathbed.
The film, as well as being heavily influenced by Accattone, saying much the same thing an octave higher, is an accurate but cold work where the transfiguration of the protagonist is imposed from the outside with the help of a dialogue that is often textual, detatched and unrealistic. Of course, the actor, the same as Accattone, Franco Citti, dies, and with him the Roman parlance, which does not sing so much as gibber.
As far as the two directors, they capture Pasolini’s mannerisms… binding the shreds of a story with strong consistency. Serena Vergano is pretty Actress.