May 14, 2011

22nd May 2011; Rossellini's Rome, Open City

Rome, Open City
A film by Roberto Rossellini
Country : Italy
Year: 1945
Italian with English subtitles
Runtime:100 minutes
22nd May 2011; 5.45pm
Perks Mini Theater

With opening introduction by Rossellini
and two documentaries
(total - 17 minutes)
after the main feature.

"All roads lead to Rome Open City,” Jean-Luc Godard once said, playing on the old Italian proverb—and meaning, we can assume, that when thinking about modern cinema, one always has to come to terms with Roberto Rossellini’s seminal film. Indeed, Rome Open City is not just a milestone in the history of Italian cinema but possibly, with De Sica’s Bicycle Thieves, one of the most influential and symbolic films of its age.
Shooting started on January 18, 1945. The war in the rest of Italy was still on. Rossellini shot his film almost entirely on location, mainly with natural lighting. There was no film stock, and so Rossellini and his team had to use abandoned scraps found here and there. It wasn’t possible to check the rushes. Rossellini, little by little, sold all he owned so that the film could go on. In Italian, as in English, there is the expression “to make a virtue of necessity,” and that’s what Rossellini did here. The result was a new kind of movie, never before seen.
One of the keys to the success of Open City is all the time Rossellini devotes to developing the ordinary Italian. The characters are distinct enough, but there's also a general life and collective spirit to what's left of the humble little country.
The scene placed at the beginning of the film would have a certain amount of power, but it's the bond you've formed with this character that allows it to rip you apart. The standout character is clearly Pina (Anna Magnani), a worn down penniless widow raising two children in a crowded apartment and about to have her third. She has real problems other than the Nazis, and makes us focus on the embarrassment and shame of the Italian people.
Rossellini's goal in making Open City obviously wasn't just to restart his career; it was to restart and rejuvenate his country. His film shows what film can be. It's entertaining yet informative. It's fiction yet it tackles legitimate problems of real people. It's servers multiple purposes for people at home as well as abroad. It shows life as it is, making one want to work for what it could be. The look might be what makes neorealism distinct, but these purposes behind the narrative were the heart and soul of the movement.

Roberto Rossellini
(born May 8, 1906, Rome—died June 3, 1977, Rome)

Roberto Rossellini one of the most widely known post-World War II motion-picture directors of Italy. His films Roma città aperta (1945; Open City) and Paisà (1946; Paisan) focussed international attention on the Italian Neorealist movement in films.
The son of a successful sculptor and architect, he travelled extensively throughout Europe. In 1931 his father's fortune was confiscated by the Italian Fascist government, and three years later Rossellini began working at odd jobs in the cinema industry. He directed a full-length feature, La nave bianca (1941; White Ship), but navy officials objected to its antiwar tone. His name was removed from the film, and it was released anonymously.
During World War II he directed government propaganda short subjects but was also affiliated with the underground cinema movement that secretly recorded the activities of the anti-Fascist Resistance. Open City, which incorporated this documentary footage shot during the war, set the style for postwar Italian films in its use of natural settings and its realistic portrayal of life in Italy during the German occupation.
Rossellini's next films— Il generale della Rovere (1959; General Della Rovere), which starred Vittorio De Sica, another leading Italian director; Viva l'Italia (1960; “Long Live Italy”); Era notte a Roma (1960; “It Was Night at Rome”); and Vanina Vanini (1961; The Betrayer)—exemplify a recurring patriotic theme. During the 1950s and '60s Rossellini also directed a number of works for the stage, and he directed his first film for television in 1956. From 1964 he devoted himself to television films, including the biographical Socrate (1970).
Rossellini's realistic style strongly influenced the development of impotant cinema talents, such as the director Federico Fellini, who came into prominence in the 1950s.

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