Fantasia Sottomarina

Fight of the octopus and the moray eel, all the fish join in, it ends with an ancient proverb of the sea.

Adroitly filmed and edited with aquarium specimens.


La Nave Bianca

Action aboard an Italian navy battleship, the wounded are transferred to a hospital ship for treatment.

A sailor who has missed a date with a madrina di guerra finds she’s a nurse, duty restrains her.


Un Pilota Ritorna

In the Italian campaign against Greece, a flier is shot down and captured by the British.

He meets a nurse born in Athens of Italian parents.

He escapes during an air raid and flies a British fighter back to Italy, where he is informed that Greece has fallen.


L’Uomo dalla Croce

An Italian army chaplain with the tank corps on the Russian Front, left behind with a gravely wounded soldier, captured, besieged in a Russian village under attack, dead of his wounds while the village is overrun.


città aperta

A recollection of the war pieced up immediately after, about a Rome divided into “labor zones” where partisans are hunted, expectant mothers are shot in the street, the theatrical element is a drug-besotted Judas, children play with bombs, and the local boss is a fairy with big ideas and no compunction about killing priests—“a paradise for microbes.”



Puttana di Roma, rustication under a horticulturist’s influence.

Down on the farm, brother-in-law and sister, tragic ending previsaged in the city, fifth-floor suicide.

Dropped in mid-production, owing to the fact that the place serving as location received Allied bombs to the point of extinction, resumed on other premises and concluded by Marcello Pagliero, with another actress and another title.



The essence of this is the screenplay, and the sum of that is the image. First, it’s the Italian girl lying dead after being cursed by the Americans and killed by the Germans. Then it’s a pit or quarry filled with scavenging children. Next, it’s a Roman prostitute six months after the Liberation. Next, it’s a Partisan leader who fights and dies unseen in Florence. Then it’s the one about the three Army chaplains, a Catholic, a Protestant, and a Jew, who go to the Italian monastery. Finally, it’s a detached unit of OSS and Partisans cut off, surrounded, captured, and executed.

And that’s it, the other side of the Army war documentaries. The score by Renzo Rossellini exactly mirrors the delicate line of Roberto Rossellini’s caméra-stylo.



Measure the critic’s falsity. Rossellini’s daughter of Zion and his Madonna, the one a gift of Cocteau and all the art at the director’s disposal, the rest by way of Fellini and Pinelli and Magnani.


Germania anno zero

The zero point at which Nazi kultur is initiated and runs its course in a symbolic representation filmed amid the ruins of Berlin in 1947.

A young boy influenced by a Uranist pedagogue kills his ailing father to reduce household expenditures.

Hitchcock’s Rope and J. Lee Thompson’s The Yellow Balloon have odd similarities, and Truffaut avouches an influence on Les Quatre cent coups.

“The last few seconds of Fascist joy may be seen through the bewildered smile of a small boy (Germany Year Zero)”, Godard writes in Gazette du Cinéma.



So many films went into it, from Bird of Paradise to Captains Courageous, so many films came out of it, from Teorema to The Ballad of Cable Hogue, you may well ask yourself what Bosley Crowther meant in the New York Times by describing it as “incredibly feeble, inarticulate, uninspiring and painfully banal,” but he saw a cut version.

The dead are so many stars in heaven, to one who has been long in city pent.

Variety likewise, “so many morally-questionable scenes”, etc.

The beautiful English dub has Bergman and no subtitles, one of the greatest performances ever in the cinema.


giullare di Dio

St. Francis, Brother Juniper, expounding several mysteries of faith including why there are film critics, lest the seeker should be wanting in “perfect happiness”.


Les Sept péchés capitaux

Vermeer, Manet, Bonnard (the cat). The painter has a young bride, she knows nothing, he is a sovereign man of the world, anyway he knows cats and models and talented people of all kinds, she doesn’t even like the cat, it falls six floors and bounces off an awning, pushed off their balcony.

He carries it up, caresses it, notes the bump on its head. He reasons out what has happened, realizes his mistake, she envies gifts received by others. The camera stands still, no longer moving about the apartment, as she walks toward it into an extreme close-up.

Rossellini at the top of his form in naturalism and precision, the “peinture de l’empêchement” put down to mésalliance.


La Macchina Ammazzacattivi

The Villainkilling Machine will do for nasty people in the town, it’s a camera that snaps a picture of a picture of a crook or a fink and fixes him dead in the pose.

A hilly fishing town, lots of jokes, the leading citizens go, the Americans are back to build a resort hotel where they landed, a substantial Government sum has to be fought over, separating the wheat from the chaff becomes a tiring occupation for the photographer, a pious man with a gift from God, as he thinks.

A Rossellini comedy, among the most brilliant and satisfying in the Italian cinema, which is to say any.

Tom Milne (Time Out Film Guide) sniffed at it as “minor but mildly pleasing”, Jonathan Rosenbaum (Chicago Reader) says it’s “a remarkably suggestive fable”.


Europe ‘51

A society woman loses her young son and her mind, wanders the slums of Rome succoring the needy, and is placed in a mental hospital by her family.

Crowther tells us that this English-dubbed version was first released in the U.S. as No Greater Love, and that “the transfer of Ingrid Bergman to the realm of Italian films has obviously not resulted in an advancement in her acting career.”

This shows Rossellini as very close to Renoir, whose Rules of the Game is practically named toward the end, in a satire that cuts both ways, all ways, every way, and still is quite serious.

And perhaps the ending, after so many farcical and fantastic events, associates the director with De Sica in Miracolo a Milano.

As a technique of perception, Rossellini’s art is instantaneous and flawless. Critics have tended to take the film at face value, which is how Bergman says it was conceived, and then judge accordingly yea or nay.


Dov’è La Libertà...?

A man imprisoned for defending the honor of his Fascist bimbo wife belongs there, as he finds out when he’s paroled.

The dance marathon (he pays), the running of the bulls (he flees), extinction of the Jews or nearly (he’s supposed to finish the job, at the behest of her family).

No, better back inside, the film represents his trial for breaking and entering.


Siamo donne

“Ingrid Bergman”, her neighbor lady’s chicken destroys the actress’s “very very rare” roses, not the children, nor the dog nor the pony. The dog, who prefers garbage, is called indoors where Bergman has trapped the “diabolical” chicken, no dice. Guests arrive, she conceals the chicken in a cabinet. The neighbor lady storms in and calls her a chicken thief.

A silly story, Bergman tells the camera.


Viaggio in Italia

The romance of Italy, the Italy of romance, how these extremes meet.

The subtale of a vanished poet recurs in John Huston’s The Dead, Rossellini’s English couple are named Joyce.

Naples, Capri, Pompeii, il miracolo della Vergine.

Uncle Homer, “not a normal person”, is Uncle Ez the Italian expatriate.

A complete vacation.

Bored, he tries a mistress but she’s married, a sorrowing whore besieges him. Reminiscent, she visits the museum, accepts the flattery of princes, sees the ancient places.

They meet at a festival in the streets.


Non credo più all’amore
La paura

It takes place in Germany, of course, Signora Wagner has a lover, she’s pestered by fear and a blackmailer, set on by her husband, a medical researcher.

One of Godard’s Ten Best Films that year, with Welles, Renoir, Hitchcock, Logan, Dwan, Sternberg, Bresson, Cukor, and Quine (“whereas Paisà, not so very long ago,” he later wrote, “was the rage of the Cannes Festival, Fear came out last year in a seedy second-run cinema”).

Rossellini interviewed by Godard (tr. Tom Milne), “do you remember the doctor in Fear who treats his wife like the guinea-pigs he uses for his experiments? For in the final analysis intelligence, too, is a convention; and behind the intelligence I seek to show not only how it works but why it works in this way. I would like to show the animal side of intelligence, just as in India 58 I showed the intelligence in animal behaviour.”


Giovanna d’Arco al rogo

Honegger’s music, Claudel’s dramatic poetry, Bergman, Rossellini, Teatro di S. Carlo (Napoli).

Out of this world of plaster saints Joan ascends to Fra Domenico, they discourse in the starry heavens and view her trial. Tiger, Fox and Serpent refuse, Porcus (Cauchon) heads the tribunal of Sheep, the recorder is an Ass. The dark demon is Cauchon’s aim, the one binding her. “They believe in the Devil,” Fra Domenico explains, “not God”. Court cards dance four-handed, “I lose! I mean I win.”

The bells sound, Catherine and Marguerite. “I led his horse, my King.” The bread and wine of France are not to be torn asunder. The King enters his gate.

Fra Domenico understands much but not Joan’s sword of Domremy, a gift of St. Michael. Two soldiers put her to the stake, her shackles fall.

Bergman has the speaking part of Joan in fluent Italian with a slight, distinctive accent. Tullio Carminati is the Lear to her Cordelia, observing out of time.

At the very height of Rossellini’s technical prowess as an artist of the Neo-Realist school (his contribution to The Seven Deadly Sins is as detailed as Manet’s Portrait of Zola) this sudden look toward Augustine and Pascal.


Matri Bhumi

India “Mother Earth”, full of crowds in Bombay, elephants and tigers and monkeys in the countryside, great dams and the weddings and partings of which this film is made.


Il generale della Rovere

The chevalier d’industrie who knows all and sees all for salami and gambling money is caught and has to play a dead hero in prison to unmask, as it turns out, the chief of the partisans.

One mistake by the Obersturmbannführer, who puts him in a holding tank with prisoners about to be executed and doesn’t tell him, spoils everything.

Now he knows, knows absolutely, what that is. And he becomes a hero of sorts as well.

Golden Lion in Venice.


Era notte a Roma

It combines Roma, città aperta and Paisà for a tale of the city in the form of a joke, Allied prisoners of war escape, a Russian, an Englishman, and an American.

This is Rossellini’s last word on the subject, the three hole up in Rome, the American makes for Anzio, the Russian is killed by the Germans, the Englishman sees the Allies arrive.

Their hostess is a De Sica type, the ciociara and the seller of black market cigarettes in Ieri Oggi Domani, and the entire point.

It wasn’t shown in New York for twenty years, then Canby dismissed it as melodrama (Godard, Ten Best Films of 1961, after Ford, Rouch, Renoir, Chabrol, Rivette, Visconti, Preminger, Demy, and before Lang).


Viva L’Italia

Omaggio a Garibaldi.

Rossellini has the immediate example of the Allied campaign, also beginning in Sicily (and halted for a time north of Naples).

Renoir’s La Marseillaise is a notable precedent tacitly acknowledged.

The centennial of Italian unification celebrated by a masterpiece re-creating the battles fought from Calatafimi to the Volturno.


Vanina Vanini

Daughter of a Roman prince and practically “vanity of vanities”.

Death of Pius VII. Arrival of a carbonaro from the provinces, assassination of a traitor, arrest, escape from the Castel Sant’Angelo, wounded, concealed in the attic of the palazzo...

“Eh, prophecies! Same old tune! Fall of Babylon! Day of Judgement! Same old song! My friend, to speak truth, Babylon’s doing fine, she’s an old whore with a tough hide.” The very beautiful, refined technique is especially evident in, for example, the lovers’ farewell at the castle, a long mobile take with the actors brought to varying degrees of closeup by means of their own movement through the scene, generally the action of the style (in comparison with, say, Visconti’s Il Gattopardo) is an ironic reduction of these events to the stuff of romantic fiction, the extraordinary to the commonplace, adding a certain strain of Romeo and Juliet ahead of Zeffirelli, after Castellani. Ironic, by dint of the pains taken to realize the early nineteenth century, and because the charcoal burner is a firebrand with a penetrating view of Europe after Napoleon. “After so much blood, the Congress of Vienna met and the question of long pants or short took precedence over the problems of Prussia, Spain, the whole Continent. The Holy Alliance, born of this Congress, gave the police supreme authority.” The distance from that day to this is real and illusory, measured in certain strides, a tale that is told...

The Inquisition, revived. The play of fact and romance, a tale of our forefathers. The score suggests Tosca in the end, the film’s structure rather inclines toward John Ford’s The Plough and the Stars in the terrible dilemma, on a presumable basis of Samson and Delilah (dir. Cecil B. DeMille, but cf. Marcello Baldi’s I Grandi condottieri).

Vincent Canby of the New York Times, “never quite that simple or simple-minded.Film4, “minor Rossellini.” Jean-Luc Godard (Cahiers du Cinéma), Ten Best Films released in France that year, with Hawks, Bergman, Truffaut, Rohmer, Godard, Dovzhenko, Richard Brooks, Claude de Givray, and Peckinpah.


Anima nera

The Roman car dealer, a swindler from way back when.

That is the joke construction, he’s old as history and the latest thing, add to that a memory of the war...

Play by Griffi, Deodato is an assistant, jazz score by Piccioni (“Over the Rainbow” for trumpet on the turntable).

“The more you spit on people, the more they love you. Adore you, even.”

The answer is from Lubitsch, That Lady in Ermine.


Laviamoci il cervello

The American is a TV executive selling I Love Lucy, Perry Mason and The Perry Como Show in Bangkok, “all this Oriental philosophy is driving me crazy,” he’s on Alitalia’s polar route, the stewardess could be the next Rheingold girl, he falls in love with her.

Her boyfriend back home gets her home movies, his mentor sizes up the Yank, “a psychopath with an Oedipus complex”. Her natural beauty and illibatezza excite him, let her curtail them.

She looks like a Roman whore next time they meet, the American is appalled. The boyfriend too, viewing her latest home movie. The Yank tries to embrace his home movie of her as she was.

Over the heads of critics it went, and on to Godard, Pasolini, Gregoretti.


La Prise de Pouvoir par Louis XIV

Death of Cardinal Mazarin. Arrest of Fouquet. The Sun King.

His fantastic ordination of a country entirely devoted to himself for reasons of State, and with an eye to progress as well as the peasantry, subdues the nobles by entraining them in a fantastic German fashion that costs a yearly income for a single suit of clothes, as he observes, and the Crown pays all expenses at court.


Atti degli apostoli

Paul, the Jew who went to Rome with side-curls amid the vestiges of Greece, the Roman citizen preaching “scandal to the Hebrews, folly to the Gentiles” (Quinta Parte).

He walks with a stick or staff on the stone roads of Agostino, all the labor involved is evident, and the Middle Sea voyage in a light vessel...



William K. Howard’s Burleigh (Morton Selten) in Fire Over England is to Elizabeth as Socrates to Athena, there is nothing to be done.

Rossellini’s bag of tricks encompasses the city walls and the Acropolis, he gives the fair approximation that delivers the goods, the movie set is avouched to be his language.

The painter David’s hero is eschewed, the citizenry are downbeat, heroic sculptures mind the latter end.

The prestidigitation peculiar to Rossellini includes nothing up any sleeve, amid a panoply of simulacra.


Blaise Pascal

His legs will barely hold him up, he treats them with brandy, later an ointment of puppies and worms is prescribed.

Russell’s The Devils is closely akin, the portrait of a devout believer and a leading scientist in the time of witch trials.

He meets Descartes, they disagree amicably, Richelieu and Mazarin and Louis are offscreen characters.

It is sufficiently ordered as a play to call in question the very idea of biography, the presence of the subject is evoked (as in Klaus Kirschner’s Mozart: A Childhood Chronicle and Horst Seemann’s Beethoven—Tage aus einem Leben), he ruminates and calculates in his room, expires in a long take that dispenses with drum and flute.


Agostino d’Ippona

The African bishop, dealing with primitives, the Donatists, and the argument of Empire.

His flock is attacked, Alaricus pillages Rome, the cry is against the Christians, he preaches faithfully the corruption of Roman virtue as the real cause, and the Celestial City that is Jerusalem.

Rossellini makes his own certain discoveries of Irving Pichel (Martin Luther, Day of Triumph) by the main device of dragging the camera among the footstones of the way.

The saint addresses the world by means of the camera like Jesus or Luther or Chaplin.



All the folly of Europe is only a distraction, wars (he enters one for the experience), religious disputes (he is a Catholic), the tulip mania, and there is plague.

He has a pellucid understanding of his dreams, superstition and folly make for error, he is at pains to form useful thoughts on the matter of existence.

An interesting parallel to Losey’s Galileo (Descartes visits Huyghens and has a look at the Pleiades).

A successful, modest man, seeking quietude for thought, neither a skeptic nor an innovator, one who sees the scientific knowledge of his age to be inadequate, a modern scientist dealing rationally and dispassionately with various threats and temptations.

The actor presents a considerable likeness, the period is well-evoked.