Roberto Rossellini’s follow-up to his breakout Rome Open City was the ambitious, enormously moving Paisan (Paisà), which consists of six episodes set during the liberation of Italy at the end of World War II, taking place across the country, from Sicily to the northern Po Valley. With its documentary-like visuals and its intermingled cast of actors and nonprofessionals, Italians and their American liberators, this look at the struggles of different cultures to communicate and of people to live their everyday lives in extreme circumstances is equal parts charming sentiment and vivid reality. A long-missing treasure of Italian cinema, Paisan is available here for the first time in its full original release version. —The Criterion Collection
Rossellini was one of the directors of the Italian neorealist cinema, contributing films such as Roma città aperta (Rome, Open City 1945) to the movement.
In 1937, Rossellini made his first documentary, Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune. After this essay, he was called to assist Goffredo Alessandrini in making Luciano Serra pilota, one of the most successful Italian films of the first half of the 20th century. In 1940 he was called to assist Francesco De Robertis on Uomini sul Fondo.His close friendship with Vittorio Mussolini, son of Il Duce, has been interpreted as a possible reason for having been preferred to other apprentices.
Some authors describe the first part of his career as a sequence of trilogies. His first feature film, La nave bianca (1942) was sponsored by the audiovisual propaganda centre of Navy Department and is the first work in Rossellini’s “Fascist Trilogy”, together with Un pilota ritorna (1942) and Uomo dalla Croce (1943). To this period belongs… read more
<3 <3 <3! The episodes made me think of Renoirs La règle du jeu, which schifted characters importance smoothly, without having the story embedded in a macro narration. Each episode was very strong though, and one could see them as a dialectical clash between realistic drama and melodram, the drama alwaysfinisching on top.
The middle part of Rossellini's acclaimed neo-realist War Trilogy shows the liberation of Italy by the Allied forces in six powerful vignettes. Each story is varied and telling as the liberators are welcomed by the citizens of a country in a state of chaos. Overall the film is devoid of propaganda and like its predecessor Rome, Open City and its successor Germany Year Zero is an immensely valuable record of its time.
A look at posters in which actors are absent and the title treatment is king.
Above: Germany Year Zero. Courtesy of the Criterion Collection. Many of the extras (interviews, visual essays) included in this Criterion
One-upping Rome, Open City in narrative ambition, scope, and sociopolitical reach, the second film in Rossellini’s War Trilogy is a fascinating cross section of Italy in the final years of… read review