Roberto Rossellini's War Trilogy (Rome Open City / Paisan / Germany Year Zero) (The Criterion Collection)
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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.Read more ›
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.Read more ›
"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.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This is a great set and I love "Paisan" and "Germany Year Zero," but knowing what I know today, I see "Rome Open City" as both historically and emotionally... Read morePublished 14 months ago by TUCO H.
Three great movies shot in Europe just after WWII ended shows the great destruction that was wrought upon the cities, lands and people very well.Published 19 months ago by R. A. Pennington
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