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The stars play an impoverished mother-to-be and a parish priest whose loyalties are tested by the sinister German forces that occupy their homeland during World War II.
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 semidocumentary 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
Top Customer Reviews
There are so many subtleties in this film, such as the "inverted" sexuality of the evil Nazi leaders, the cooperation of the Catholic clergy and the Communist rebels, the "good wife" vs her wanna-be starlet younger sister, the future of Italy expressed by the children at the end of the film, etc that it takes several viewings to absorb it all, but the ride is worth it.
The DVD is mastered at somewhat less than perfect standards however and the subtitling is part of the film and not overlaid and clearer in image unfortunately. There are no extras on the DVD, nor is there an audio-commentary track which would have been a wonderful addition! (Maybe next time).
Still, this is a brilliant film and I highly recommend it!!!
See it for the fine performances, the achievement of its making, and for the history it portrays.
Melville's film was made with the hindsight of three decades, and he was able to emphasise the ambiguity of the Resistance, their own violence echoing that of the SS; their need to live in shadows dissolving, rather than affirming, their identity, forever removed from the society they defend. Filmed in the immediate aftermath of Liberation, there is no such ambiguity in 'Rome'. There are no posturing heroics, but these men are heroes, and every important incident - from arrest to torture to execution, is made into a spectacle, something to be witnessed, affirmed. This is natural enough, and the spiritual showdown between the priest and the Gestapo chief has a fierce power.
Unfortunately, there is a somewhat distasteful division of moral spoils - the Resistance are linked, no matter how loosely, to the Christ-like clergy, family, community, poverty, the nation. Betrayal and collaboration, which is female, is defined by lesbianism, drug-taking, nightclubs and material greed.Read more ›
Having seen the film in the privacy of my studio apartment, in all the breathtaking expanse of my thirteen-inch television screen, I can only say that this film must have felt like an event to anyone who had the good fortune to see it on the big screen. I am unable to forget several of the scenes, not that I would ever want to, and much of the film's commentary is valid to this day -- a mark of a truly timeless film, one which was born out of one kind of suffering and still speaks to us this day, fifty years later.
The performances are subtle, the sentiment universal, and the cinematography precise and memorable, offering up haunting visions of hope and hopelessness for generations of people who will never have to suffer through the kind of war the Italians and countless others did in World War II. Perhaps anyone who ever considers waging war in the future should be encouraged to watch a handful of films on the subject, and perhaps Open City should be chief among them. This is a film that will stay with you long after the final scene, long after the final vision of hope is cast out and reborn.
There has been so much written about this picture, I will only mention a few details. It was shot in Rome using captured German newsreal film as the Nazis left town. (Which is the reason the film quality bounces around as the differing film stocks were used.) When Ingrid Bergman saw the picture, she fell in love with the director she had never met, left her husband, flew to Italy, and married Rossellini.
There are too many great scenes to list. Let me just say that the near-final scene when the little priest damns the German officer and then apologizes to God is, for me, the single greatest moment in film.
Open City should be seen and owned by anyone interested in the movies.
Most recent customer reviews
It is unfortunate that one of the milestone movies of international cinema receives such a terrible treatment in terms of subtitles and print transfer on the DVD. Read morePublished on Dec 19 2000
I agree with many reviewers here that this is truly a great film. Someone mentioned that the story is melodramatic or even propagandistic, which is true, but it is really beside... Read morePublished on Dec 11 2000
I agree with most of reviewer here that Roberto Rossellini's Open City is a great film - ground-breaking work that is yet entertaining in the most simple way. Read morePublished on Dec 11 2000
First off let me state that i have not actually viewed the DVD version of this film, but i read a review which warned viewers that about 20% of the dialogue was untranslated and... Read morePublished on Oct. 26 2000
Roberto RosselliniÕs classic 1945 movie masterpiece, Open City, was a sad story with a very sad ending, since the film's chief characters, Pina, Giorgio Manfredi, and Don Pietro... Read morePublished on Aug. 25 2000 by Ira Grossman
Italian film owes much to Roberto Rossellini. World film owes him more than he's worth, I'm afraid. Read morePublished on Aug. 5 2000
A Great film ..filled with the emotion of the times. It was here that Rosselini hired an assistant named Frederico Fellini to help him with this film. Read morePublished on March 12 2000 by charles pope
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