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Open City (1945)

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Mr. Arkadin
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Open City (1945)

Postby Mr. Arkadin » March 27th, 2011, 4:33 pm

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Without Roberto Rosselini’s Rome, Open City (1945), the landscape of film might be surprisingly different. Often described as the movie that opened the floodgates to Neo Realism, Rossellini’s masterpiece used non-actors and newsreel type location shooting, creating a gritty look completely at odds with Hollywood production. It was also one of the first foreign language movies to successfully connect with American audiences, and influenced its directors for years to come.

This film has not played on TCM for some time, but tonight’s showing (3/27) is definitely unique, as the print we will see is probably the restored uncensored version, which includes a shot of Manfredi being tortured with an acetylene torch, where the we see the flame burn across his chest (something only hinted at in the censored cut). The new print looks surprisingly crisp and fans will notice many new things that might have been obscured with a wonderful new depth of field.

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Above all, Open City reminds us that love and charity are only given freely and those who need them are often the most undeserving. In Rossellini's movie, heroes are not men of grandeur, but ordinary people, willing to fight oppression with faith and principals.

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Re: Open City (1945)

Postby knitwit45 » March 27th, 2011, 4:53 pm

Thanks, Ark, I've scheduled this for recording. Hope I can get all the way thru it! (I'm squeamish, and get nervous when characters are in peril :oops: :oops: )

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Re: Open City (1945)

Postby Mr. Arkadin » March 27th, 2011, 9:16 pm

Hi Nancy. While the film has several somber moments, Rossellini also uses comedy to lighten the film. Aldo Fabrizi who plays the priest Don Pietro, was primarily a comedic actor (he and Anna Magnani were the only people who had appeared in a movie beforehand) and his talents are put to good use.

While there is a lot of symbolism in the film, many of the humorous moments actually reinforce (and foreshadow) the weightier aspects. This was probably inspired by Jean Renoir (Crime of Monsieur Lange [1936], Rules of the Game [1939]). Charles Burnett would use these same ideas in the seventies with Killer of Sheep (1977).

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Re: Open City (1945)

Postby charliechaplinfan » March 28th, 2011, 3:19 am

Open City is truly a great film. Don't worry Nancy, I don't think it's gruesome and it opens up very quickly and becomes compelling viewing. So many of it's scenes are memorable and it feels very real and very human.

I look forward to this thread developing.
Failure is unimportant. It takes courage to make a fool of yourself - Charlie Chaplin

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Re: Open City (1945)

Postby Mr. Arkadin » March 28th, 2011, 6:55 am

It was the older print. Nancy will be relieved. :wink:

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Re: Open City (1945)

Postby knitwit45 » March 28th, 2011, 7:08 am

:oops: :oops:
the wimp is relieved...and looking forward to seeing this.

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Re: Open City (1945)

Postby charliechaplinfan » March 28th, 2011, 12:19 pm

I think she will be.
Failure is unimportant. It takes courage to make a fool of yourself - Charlie Chaplin

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Re: Open City (1945)

Postby moira finnie » March 28th, 2011, 4:24 pm

I am a real wimp about violence on film, but in the context of this movie, the scene referred to brings the story to a necessary dramatic and moral crescendo when the priest (the wonderfully human Aldo Fabrizi), pushed beyond his limits by witnessing his fellow prisoner's ordeal, comments on the events and those who perpetrate them. In this movie, the action is disturbing because of the humanity of the people, but Rome, Open City (1945) never pretends that violence does not debase the executioners as much as the victims.

For those who could not record it, the film is available in its entirety on youtube, beginning below.
[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fh67pfSc45c&feature=related[/youtube]
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Re: Open City (1945)

Postby kingrat » May 31st, 2011, 5:34 pm

I didn't like Open City as much as I'd hoped to. Unfortunately the TCM print wasn't very good, which no doubt lessened the impact of the film. The only other Rossellini film I've seen is The Rise of Louis XIV, which is worth seeing, and part of Viaggio in Italia, but I'm still waiting for the "So that's why people think he's a great director" moment. I do want to see more of his films, but for the time being I'm with the sceptics in the general Neorealism thread. To some extent, I have the same reaction to Open City as to Jules Dassin's The Naked City: yes, it was new then, but it doesn't look fresh now, and I don't feel much emotional connection to it. SPOILERS AHEAD.

After Anna Magnani, her son, and the wonderful old man who won't leave his bed disappear from the film, my interest level dropped and I even did a little fast forwarding. Open City becomes predictable because Rossellini relies on the stereotypes of socialist realism. More vital pacing would make this less apparent. Of course the resistance leader will suffer torture greater than anyone else without betraying his comrades, because he fought with the Reds in Spain (as we're told not once but twice). Of course the female Nazi is a lesbian, and of course the person who betrays the good guys is the only Italian who's less than 100% heterosexual. If we must have evil lesbians, I greatly prefer Cornelia Otis Skinner in The Uninvited.

I really liked the last shot of Open City and wish that the rest of the film had been at that level. This was much less to my taste than De Sica's Bicycle Thieves or Umberto D.

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Re: Open City (1945)

Postby moira finnie » May 31st, 2011, 6:26 pm

kingrat wrote:If we must have evil lesbians, I greatly prefer Cornelia Otis Skinner in The Uninvited.

You are too funny--but she really scared me, especially when she had those conversations with that giant portrait of Mary Meredith.

I've never been big on the orthodoxy of people who take social realism as gospel, though Open City was the first film I ever saw with Anna Magnani speaking Italian and for that I am very grateful, since she's a far more relaxed actress then. I'm not sure that the movie really fits the more rigid interpretations of neo-realist cinema. It helps that Open City has several scenes with a point and actors who know how to communicate, otherwise it might seem like an elaborate home movie at some points. I think that the movie seemed so spontaneous and brave in the '40s because of the circumstances of the film's production and the allusions to politics and different types of people who were so rarely acknowledged in American movies of the period that they were practically invisible up till then.

I think that the movie's heart and soul are in the priest played by Aldo Fabrizi and Anna Magnani characters (both trained actors, I must add)--and loved the geezer getting ready to fight the Nazis from his bed. When they are off-screen, it doesn't have as much electricity going for it, but for me, the ending still has an enormous emotional impact.
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Re: Open City (1945)

Postby charliechaplinfan » June 1st, 2011, 1:06 pm

I waited years to see Open City and for me it did hit home but even more so the second time I watched it, I think I'd expected something more grainy, I rented then bought the DVD. The second time I watched it I think I appreciated more what Rossellini was trying to achieve. Some of the film was filmed surreptiously with the film crew ready to hop it if they had to. Open City is my favorite of his war trilogy of films although the other two are very watchable.

I love The Bicycle Thieves but as of yet I haven't been able to bring myself to watch Umberto D. It's funny, I can watch the man getting tortured in Open City but when I saw a clip of a man trying to desert his dog I felt distraught.
Failure is unimportant. It takes courage to make a fool of yourself - Charlie Chaplin


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