Rome, Open City (1945) (Roma, cittá aperta)
Reviewed on 2013 June 6
This is a very gritty piece that seems to get a lot of late-night attention on TCM and the like. I finally got to see it for the first time last night and I was very moved by it.
Despite the wartime Nazi infestation, Rome is classified as an “open city”. Since we’re talking about Nazis, that truly means little. The Italian Resistance does everything in its power to thwart the Germans, who decide to divide their city into fourteen zones. Nobody would be happy with this except the Germans and the wannabes; I think this is the first war movie where the wannabes actually made me sicker. The Romans who decide to actually do something about this face danger not only from the Nazis, but from their own who betray them for extra rations and other trinkets.
Most of the story is seen through the eyes of the brave, tough, and pregnant Pina (Anna Magnani), who seems to be the glue holding her family together. She is engaged to marry a handsome freedom fighter (Francesco Grandjacquet), who loves both the strong Pina and her fiery little son, Marcello (Vito Annichiarico). Marcello is a budding freedom-fighter himself, aligning himself with some neighborhood kids with their own reasons for hating the Nazis.
This is a heavy movie, taking me by surprise. The acting impressed me, the direction was good, and the quality of the film, despite the stuff they had to work with at that time, was decent. I saw a cleaned-up Janus Films print, which I’m sure helped, but this thing was made when you had to know someone to get a second stick of butter. What impressed me is the lack of caricature here. One of the women is the living, breathing embodiment of why the French shaved the heads of the traitorous Vichy women after the war.
Four chocolate morsels. Takes a while to get going, then POW!