Best Defense

Thomas E. Ricks' daily take on national security.

‘Salvatore Guiliano’: ‘The Godfather’ as done by the maker of ‘Battle of Algiers’

On a whim I watched Salvatore Guiliano the other night. I wish I had seen it before visiting Sicily. This is a terrific film, especially if you know the island, because it rings true. It begins in the late 1940s, which is actually when Michael Corleone would have been there. But it portrays a far ...

maha-online/flickr
maha-online/flickr
maha-online/flickr

On a whim I watched Salvatore Guiliano the other night. I wish I had seen it before visiting Sicily. This is a terrific film, especially if you know the island, because it rings true.

It begins in the late 1940s, which is actually when Michael Corleone would have been there. But it portrays a far more complex world, where the Mafia is siding with the carbienere against the Communists and the aristocratic independents, and so on.

It struck me as what the Sicily scenes in The Godfather would be like if they had been done by the director of The Battle of Algiers. Like the latter, a lot of the scenes in this movie were filmed using the actual places where they occurred, with some of the original participants. When I went to GoogleEarth to locate the massacre at Portella di Ginestra, it offered a photo of the rocky hill in the background -- which I recognized from the film. 

On a whim I watched Salvatore Guiliano the other night. I wish I had seen it before visiting Sicily. This is a terrific film, especially if you know the island, because it rings true.

It begins in the late 1940s, which is actually when Michael Corleone would have been there. But it portrays a far more complex world, where the Mafia is siding with the carbienere against the Communists and the aristocratic independents, and so on.

It struck me as what the Sicily scenes in The Godfather would be like if they had been done by the director of The Battle of Algiers. Like the latter, a lot of the scenes in this movie were filmed using the actual places where they occurred, with some of the original participants. When I went to GoogleEarth to locate the massacre at Portella di Ginestra, it offered a photo of the rocky hill in the background — which I recognized from the film. 

This isn’t a terrorism film. It is more one about how most insurgencies end, and I am not sure there is a category for that. The only movies I can think of that fit that are this one and "The Wind that Shakes the Barley."

Note: Michael Cimino apparently made a movie called The Sicilian which is based on Mario Godfather Puzo’s novel about Guiliano. Haven’t seen it.

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com. Twitter: @tomricks1

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