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Roberto Rossellini's War Trilogy (Rome Open City / Paisan / Germany Year Zero) (The Criterion Collection)

4.5 out of 5 stars 27 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Roberto Rossellini is one of the most influential filmmakers of all time. And it was with his trilogy of films made during and after World War II ROME OPEN CITY, PAISAN, and GERMANY GROUND ZERO that he left his first transformative mark on cinema. With their stripped-down aesthetic, largely nonprofessional casts, and unorthodox approaches to storytelling, these intensely emotional works were international sensations and effectively launched the neorealist movement. Shot in battle-ravaged Italy and Germany, these three films are some of our most lasting, humane documents of devastated postwar Europe, containing universal images that encompass both tragedy and hope.

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The Allies had barely driven the Nazis out of Rome when Roberto Rosselini went to work on Open City, considered by most to be his greatest work. Shot on bits and short ends of scavenged film, this film helped define Italian neorealism. Audiences were convinced that the actors were all amateurs (they weren't) and the whole film was improvised (it wasn't; the three screenwriters included Federico Fellini). With its semi documentary camera style and use of actual locations, the film does feel very real. Of course, so does the opening half-hour of Saving Private Ryan, and like that film Open City is at its heart a classic war yarn any Hollywood studio would feel at home with. The story involves members of the Italian underground trying to smuggle badly needed cash out of Nazi-occupied Rome to partisan fighters in the mountains, while the Nazis are hunting down one of the underground, a notorious freedom fighter and seditionist. Anna Magnani (an actor well established in her own country who became an international star with this film) is often singled out for her portrayal as the pregnant, unwed woman who gets caught up in the action on her wedding day, but the entire cast is topnotch. The sparse subtitles are both a blessing and a curse--there is less to read, which allows the viewer to concentrate on the visuals, but there are times when non-Italian-speakers will feel like they're missing out on some juicy dialogue. --Geof Miller

Special Features

New, restored high-definition digital transfers
Video introductions by Roberto Rossellini to all three films (1963)
New video interviews with Adriano Apra, Virgilio Fantuzzi & more!
Audio commentary on Rome Open City by film scholar Peter Bondanella
Once Upon a Time . . . Rome Open City, a 2006 documentary on the making of
"Rossellini and the City" film scholar Mark Shiel
Excerpts from a Rossellini discussion at Rice University (1970)
"Into the Future," a new visual essay about the War Trilogy
"Roberto Rossellini," a 2001 documentary by Carlo Lizzani
Letters from the Front: Carlo Lizzani on Germany Year Zero
Italian credits and prologue for Germany Year Zero
New illustrated essay by film scholar Thomas Meder
New and improved English subtitle translations
PLUS: A booklet featuring essays by director Irene Bignardi and others

Product Details

  • Actors: Anna Magnani, Aldo Fabrizi, Carmela Sazio, Gar Moore, William Tubbs
  • Directors: Roberto Rossellini
  • Writers: Marcello Pagliero, Alberto Consiglio, Alfred Hayes, Basilio Franchina, Carlo Lizzani
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Box set, Black & White, NTSC, Subtitled
  • Language: Italian
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 3
  • Rated:
    NR
    Not Rated
  • Studio: Criterion
  • DVD Release Date: January 26, 2010
  • Run Time: 302 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B002U6DVQ2
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #54,123 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Roberto Rossellini's War Trilogy (Rome Open City / Paisan / Germany Year Zero) (The Criterion Collection)" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By C. Bleakley on February 3, 2010
Format: DVD
Wow, a week after this has been released there's still no reviews. I'd like to think that's because this set is jammed with such great content--movies and extras--that even the early adopters are still absorbing it.

It seems that Criterion thought long and hard about release #500. And it shows. These are three extraordinary movies. They're all over 60 years old, but they still pack an emotional and cinematic wallop.

"Open City" is the most familiar and revered title here. It has lost little of it's power or immediacy. Maybe the melodrama is a bit more obvious to our jaded 21st century sensibilities, but that doesn't mean you won't get caught up in the story. Short, plump Aldo Fabrizi plays one of the least unlikely resistance heroes imaginable, and Anna Magnani is nothing short of iconic. This may not be the birth of Italian Neo-realism, but it's certainly a precocious infancy.

"Paisan," here in its first US DVD release, was Rossellini's follow-up to "Open City." It seems to beg the question, how imperfect can a movie be and still be great? The acting is uneven to say the least (arguably the amateurs are more convincing that the professionals), not all of the six short story-like episodes are equally compelling, and most of them end with an unsatisfying abruptness. But on some very basic level, these imperfections just don't matter. In one of the special features, Martin Scorcese makes a very telling distinction between "realism" and "authenticity" and this film never feels less than authentic, often chillingly so.

"Germany Year Zero" is the most problematic of the films, if only because it's so heartbreaking, few people will want to sit through it more than once.
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Two of these three Rossellini films made at the very end of WWll are considered classics: Rome, Open City, and Paisan. The third film, the disturbing Germany Year Zero has always been controversial and was a failure, though it is loved dearly by some.

The copies of the films are fantastic, especially Rome, Open City and Germany Year Zero, pristine, sharply focused black and white and Rossellini's great mastery of light, shadow and intensity and contrast of that palette is astoundingly captured. Paisan is a very good copy, though some shots are a little dim or faded looking. For those who know Rome and Paisan from VHS copies that circulated there is no comparison in any sense -- these are tremendously vivid, absolutely complete (the VHS copies I owned clipped small sections and had jumpy cuts), with superb sound tracks (that means tolerating Rossellini's brother's music which can be intrusive, especially in Paisan though one must assume auteur Rossellini wanted this since he was notoriously a complete control freak.)

Most people with any interest in film will know that Rome, Open City stunned Europe and was credited with creating a movement called 'neo-realism', though one of the late interviews with Rossellini included in the many invaluable extras shows him mocking the term. Whatever one calls it, much that happened in European film in the late forties and early 50's was influenced by both this film and Paisan -- Godard and Truffaut not to mention Fellini (who had his first serious film jobs assisting Rossellini on Rome and Paisan), De Sica and a host of others all traced their choices back to Rossellini's courage and vision.
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Format: DVD
The Criterion Collection's recent release of "Roberto Rossellini's War Trilogy (Rome Open City / Paisan / Germany Year Zero), presents us with clean, remastered copies of these three memorable films. In them, we can see Rossellini invent Italian neo-realism on the screen; he had to, as, at the time he was working, Italy and Germany were nearly destroyed by World War II bombing, there was very little infrastructure left, and it was hard to get film, filmmaking equipment - and everything else. Thus, the director worked with natural light and sound. The trilogy also presents many informative extras: interviews with Rossellini's actress daughter Isabella; interviews with many of the films' actors, and film scholars, and Once Upon a Time . . . Rome Open City, a 2006 documentary on the making of Rossellini's most influential, important film.

"Rome Open City," (1945). This black and white, 100 minute long, unsettling war drama packs a lot into its brief running time. It is set in Rome, 1944, the waning days of World War II. The Germans are on the run, but still occupy the war-battered city that has been declared "Open" by parties to the war. It's anybody's for the taking. Its residents, largely old men, women and children endure a harrowing struggle with curfews, food shortages, joblessness, poverty, hunger and allied bombing raids. Meanwhile, they are trying to shield resistance forces from their de facto Nazi occupiers, and to maintain their self-respect. Rossellini's astonishing landmark film, which made its sensational debut at the Cannes Film Festival and was nominated for an Oscar for best screenplay, shows the Italian people's heartsick, weary despair and collective resolve to survive.
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