Renato Salvatori did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Simone Parondi in Rocco and His Brothers.
Renato Salvatori plays the second oldest brother, who unlike the eldest brother Vincenzo, is new to the city life as the film opens. Salvatori portrays Simone in these early scenes as a man who was perhaps most suited for the life in the country where the family began. Salvatori manages to pull off the trick of playing a simple man without giving a simple performance. In the early scenes Salvatori offers a rather endearing presence as he portrays Simone as just an easy going sort. Salvatori brings an innate likability in this as he brings this optimism about Simone as the brothers try to get started. Salvatori importantly establishes just the way of Simone as he is very much a man of the moment. This happens to work as the brothers first enter Milan as they just try to get by with small jobs, still as a family unit. Salvatori makes Simone the life of the room in the right way as he shows a real earnestness as he goofs off slightly, but always in an encouraging humorous way for his brothers. Salvatori shows the right fun energy of just a man who lives in the time right in front of him.
Salvatori makes Simone a man who would have been perfect for a simple life, but that is not the nature of life in Milan. This is made readily apparent when the family is visited by a woman Nadia (Annie Girardot), who unknown to the brothers is a prostitute. Salvatori is great in this initial meeting by realizing so well the straight fascination in Simone at the sight of her. Salvatori in this moment shows absolutely no hidden motives in this, or even a lust exactly. It is a purer fascination at this moment, as Salvatori reflects this shyness in Simone of a man with a simple crush. This relationship though is changed when Simone finds success as a boxer in Milan, which acts as a short cut to success for him. Nadia decides to rope Simone along a little bit, though she has no serious intentions for him. Salvatori finds the tragic element in this treatment because he brings only a real earnestness once again, and reveals such pure joy when it seems she is interested in him, even though she's really not. Salvatori's performance echoes the important idea that Simone, is not ready for this sort of game, as he makes Simone's emotions absolutely pure.
The film takes a slight time jump after Simone's younger brother Rocco (Alain Delon) has served time in the army. In the time Nadia has moved on from Simone, and meets Rocco where they honestly connect. We find Simone again essentially ruined by the city, and as he finds Rocco with Nadia his descent only continues. What Salvatori does that's so remarkable with this performance, is that his transition is not a black and white shift, from endearing brother to the man he becomes. This is shown in the scene where Simone discovers Rocco and Nadia, and proceeds to beat his brother and then rapes Nadia. Salvatori makes this an especially disturbing scene because he does not make this a different man from before. Instead that same simplistic outlook is once again brought to Simone even in this act, as Salvatori makes the scene still about Simone failing to understand the complexity of the situation. The problem is in this case instead of merely being duped, Salvatori shows the frustration of the man as he lashes out. In the moment after the act Simone explains what he did, and Salvatori plays it as an older brother teaching his younger brother a lesson. Salvatori keeps the same earnest quality as before, still showing a simple man, but the problem is it is now attached to horrible behavior.
Rocco in his belief of family unity does not try to avenge Nadia, but rather encourages her to go back to Simone. In an act of desperation she does go back to him, which Simone is more than willing to accept. Again Salvatori never makes Simone a villain but is absolutely chilling by realizing this natural perversion of his older self as he fails to acclimate to his new environment. Salvatori's work establishes that Simone has not really learned anything from what he does, and is completely genuine as he attempts to show his love to the woman he previously brutalized. Simone's problems build up though as he not only fails to understand his relationship with Nadia, but also fails to comprehend the underbelly of Milan he gets involved with through his boxing career. Simone ends up in debt, and is the victim himself in the hands of those who choose to manipulate him further. There's a terrific scene for Salvatori as Simone goes to a man for help, and Salvatori presents him as a man who is completely lost in the situation. Simone eventually is exiled from Milan, where he once again finds Nadia who has returned to prostitution. It's an incredible scene for Salvatori as he portrays the mess that is Simone, as he gives us a man who is failing to deal with the trauma caused by their relationship. As Simone once again violently reacts in hate it is intertwined with a vicious attempt to love at the the same time, this hypocritical act Salvatori makes wholly convincing by suggesting the hate comes from his inability to understand how to express his love in the difficult circumstances. This is a brilliant performance by Renato Salvatori as he gives a powerful portrait of a simple man broken by a complex world he could never begin to understand.