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Thursday, December 24, 2009

ERA NOTTE A ROMA (1960)

This forgotten film from Roberto Rossellini combines many of the themes & story elements of his best known Neo-Realist work in OPEN CITY/’45 and PAISAN/’46. It was made after his split with Ingrid Bergman, but before starting his unclassifiable ‘teaching’ films; one of a series of conventional narratives Rossellini tried to make in a style that never spoke to him. It’s the story of three WWII P.O.W.s (a Brit, a Yank & a Ruskie) hiding in an attic in Rome while they wait for the Allies to break the German occupation. The film feels uncomfortable in its own skin, unwilling (or unable) to meet the demands of commercial cinema, yet afraid of dropping the expected tropes of personal courage, tested loyalties and suspenseful raids. We’re kept off-balance by the slow-motion reactions of the soldiers and their protectors, only to then lunge ahead with an attempt at some heightened dramatic pay-off that Rossellini picks at like an unappetizing entree. It’s fascinating, but not exactly successful.

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