A blog formerly known as Bookishness

By Charles Matthews

"Dazzled by so many and such marvelous inventions, the people of Macondo ... became indignant over the living images that the prosperous merchant Bruno Crespi projected in the theater with the lion-head ticket windows, for a character who had died and was buried in one film and for whose misfortune tears had been shed would reappear alive and transformed into an Arab in the next one. The audience, who had paid two cents apiece to share the difficulties of the actors, would not tolerate that outlandish fraud and they broke up the seats. The mayor, at the urging of Bruno Crespi, explained in a proclamation that the cinema was a machine of illusions that did not merit the emotional outbursts of the audience. With that discouraging explanation many ... decided not to return to the movies, considering that they already had too many troubles of their own to weep over the acted-out misfortunes of imaginary beings."
--Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Open City (Roberto Rossellini, 1945)

Anna Magnani in Open City
Pina: Anna Magnani
Don Pietro: Aldo Fabrizi
Giorgio Manfredi: Marcello Pagliero
Marcello: Vito Annichiarico
Francesco: Francesco Grandjacquet
Laura: Carla Rovere
Marina: Maria Michi
Major Bergmann: Harry Feist
Ingrid: Giovanna Galletti

Director: Roberto Rossellini
Screenplay: Sergio Amidei, Federico Fellini, Roberto Rossellini, Alberto Consiglio
Cinematography: Ubaldo Arata
Music: Renzo Rossellini

The considerable reputation of Roberto Rossellini's Open City lies in its place in film history, as a pioneering work of what came to be known as neorealism. But it often feels more conventional and traditional than subsequent films in that genre, like Vittorio De Sica's Shoeshine (1946) and Bicycle Thieves (1949) or Rossellini's own Paisan (1946). Its most famous moment, Pina's run after the truck carrying away Francesco recalls Renée Adorée's pursuit of the truck that carries John Gilbert to the Front in The Big Parade (King Vidor, 1925), and Open City depends very much on such melodramatic scenes, centered on established actors like Anna Magnani and Aldo Fabrizi instead of neorealism's dependence on nonprofessional performers. It also relies rather heavily on stereotypes, especially Harry Feist's sneering Übermensch of an SS officer and the predatory lesbian Ingrid, who is just one step away from the cliché She-Beast of the Third Reich. But none of this really detracts from the film's brilliance or its status as one of the greatest of films. It was made under the harshest of circumstances. That it was made at all is astonishing, but that it is so good and so moving is miraculous.

Watched on Turner Classic Movies

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