Francesco Rosi, the Palme d’Or winning Italian director of the 1972 film Il Caso Mattei, died today in Rome, Italy. He was 92. Cause of death is unkown. Rosi was known for his cinematic stories, often based on real people, who in their quest for power often met their downfall. During the 1970s when Italy was torn apart by left-and-right violence, Rosi’s investigative-type films were a vital part of the nation’s voice. In his work, Rosi drew a lot of inspiration from Italy’s neo-realist filmmakers such as Vittorio De Sica and Roberto Rossellini. Il Caso Mattei (The Mattei Affair), for example featured a mix of docu and fictional footage and depicted the life and mysterious death of Enrico Mattei, an Italian oil businessman who avoided selling Italian oil and hydrocarbon industry to US companies and instead developed them in the Eni, a state-owned oil company which rivaled oil/gas deals in northern African and Middle Eastern countries. Another Rosi title, 1962’s Salvatore Giuliano told the story of a dashing Sicilian bandit who was offed in 1950 by the police or the mob.
Rosi won the Golden Lion at the Venice in 1963 for the Naples political drama Hands over the City. It starred Rod Steiger, Rosi received a second Golden Lion in Venice in 2012 for his career contribution to film. Boardwalk Empire‘s Vincent Piazza has mentioned in interviews that series executive producer Martin Scorsese recommended watching Rosi’s 1973 biopic Lucky Luciano when the actor was prepping his role as the notorious gangster, Charlie Luciano.
Rosi’s film Christ Stopped at Eboli about the exile of anti-fascist activist Dr. Carlo Levi received a BAFTA award for best foreign language film in 1979. The director received an Oscar nod in the foreign lingo category for 1981’s Three Brothers. The film was based on a work by Andrei Platonov and told the story about three grown sons, who are summoned by their father back to the farmhouse, in the wake of their mother’s death. Rosi directed opera star Placido Domingo in a 1984 adaptation of Carmen, which earned a Golden Globe best foreign language film nod. Rosi’s final film was 1997’s The Truce which starred John Turturro as Primo Levi. The film was based on the Auschwitz’s survivor’s memoir about his return to Italy in 1945 after the Red Army liberated the concentration camp.