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Friday, June 21, 2013

ROMA CITTA LIBERA (1946)

Originally titled LA NOTTE PORTA CONSIGLIO, this was opportunistically rechristened ROMA CITTÁ LIBERA with hopes of riding on the backdraft of the burgeoning international success of Roberto Rossellini’s Neo-Realist ROMA, CITTÁ APERTA/’45. But, while the film was shot on real back street locations, revealing Rome’s hidden underbelly, stylistically, there’s little ‘Neo’ and not much ‘Realism’ going on in this post-war ensemble piece. Instead, under the glossy gaze of Aldo Tonti’s slick noir lensing (the best thing in the movie), we follow the ironic trail that a pair of stolen pearl necklaces take as they get traded, mislaid & even re-stolen over the course of a long Rome evening. Interlaced vignettes showcase the life of a soft-hearted second-story man; a suicidal romantic loner; a typist who’s behind in her rent; a few cast-off lovers & crooks; a lovelorn American soldier boy; and an amnesiac politician who all come in contact with the wandering pearls. In theory, the story anticipates Max Ophüls LA RONDE/’50 and THE EARRINGS OF MADAME DE . . ./’53), but in practice the film is a silly bit of fluff that advances its storyline thru coincidence & sentimental flourishes. (Though, speaking of coincidence, it does feature Vittorio De Sica, later one of the stars of EARRINGS. Here looking more like Charlie Chaplin than ever; click on our poster, he's the grey-haired man in the center.) Marcello Pagiero, who played a partisan in OPEN CITY, directs, keeping his fine cast moving forward. But there are just too many holes in the story for it to hold water . . . in any style.

WATCH THIS, NOT THAT/SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: Composer Nino Rota, not one to let a good musical theme go to waste, repurposed much of this score for Fellini’s I VITELLONI/’53.

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