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Ron Reed

Rome, Open City (Roma citta aperta)

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Found this tantalizing reference while reading up on Roberto Rossellini;

It is 1945, Rome has recently been liberated, and Roberto Rossellini joins forces with a scriptwriter, Sergio Amidei, to make a film about the courage and suffering of Romans under the recent Nazi occupation. They faced every imaginable obstacle to the realization of their project: a war-torn economy, reluctant producers, lack of raw materials (celluloid was especially scarce), and a film industry wedded to the aesthetics of escape. Vaudeville stars Anna Magnani and Aldo Fabrizi are persuaded to join the cast, despite the appallingly severe shortage of funds to meet their salary demands. Rossellini hires Federico Fellini, Fabrizi's gag writer, to join his troupe, and Fellini in turn convinces Fabrizi to lower his price. Personal upheavals threatened the real production at every turn. Amidei and his girlfriend, Maria Michi (who plays Marina), break up and reconcile any number of times; Magnani's stormy love affair with the young and unreliable Massimo reaches crisis level in mid-shooting; and her son is afflicted with the tire malady. Producers come and go, plagued by in adequate resources or daunted by the novelty of the project. After a sneak preview, a noted distributor is shocked and pronounces the film unmarketable. In one of the many serendipities that marked the birth of Open City, an American soldier named Rod Geiger discovers that Rossellini has tapped into the power supply used to illuminate the G.I. dance hall next door to the studio. When Geiger realizes that he is stumbled onto a movie set, his anger gives way to fascination and he gallantly offers to distribute the finished product in America. After a number of other picaresque turns of events Rossellini and Amidei succeed in completing their project. The film is a flop in Italy, but Geiger remains true to his word: Open City runs for 21 consecutive months in a New York theater to great critical and public acclaim, wins the Cannes Film Festival of 1946, is hailed as a masterpiece in Paris, earns worldwide admiration for Rossellini, and paves the way for the triumph of Italian neorealism.

If this account of the story behind the making of Open City reads like a film treatment, that's because it is. The history outlined above is drawn from Carlo Lizzani


I've posted a couple hundred of my Soul Food Movies write-ups at letterboxd

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Finally saw ROME, OPEN CITY last night and let me say I imagine that next time around I'll be campaigning hard for this to get back on the Top 100. I'm shocked it fell off.

Tonight and tomorrow I'll be finishing up Rossellini's War Trilogy with PAISAN and GERMANY, YEAR ZERO.


"A director must live with the fact that his work will be called to judgment by someone who has never seen a film of Murnau's." - François Truffaut

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I'm a big fan, too. It's been a while since I watched it, but I remember thinking it was up there with Ball of Algiers for this particular kind of war movie. The religious elements are really strong, too.


It's the side effects that save us.
--The National, "Graceless"
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I'm a big fan, too. It's been a while since I watched it, but I remember thinking it was up there with Ball of Algiers for this particular kind of war movie. The religious elements are really strong, too.

Yes, that religious element makes me surprised that it ended up getting dropped. Don Pietro is one of the more interesting priest characters in film. With this and MYSTERIES OF LISBON, now I'm thinking we need a list of best priests (or pastors) in film.


"A director must live with the fact that his work will be called to judgment by someone who has never seen a film of Murnau's." - François Truffaut

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Reviews and essays at Three Brothers Film.

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I nominated Rome, Open City for the top 100. The priest, Don Pietro, is a personification of mercy, sacrifice and justice. He willingly gives himself for the good of others. His political actions are motivated by his understanding of God's love and his desire to give that love to those around him. If I remember correctly from the last time I looked through the older Spiritually Significant lists, this was once a mainstay but fell off the last list. So, I hope we see it return this time around.

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