Saturday, August 14, 2010

Era Notte a Roma

Roberto Rossellini, Italy, 1960, bw (8.0*)aka Escape By Night
An important wartime film from Italian director Rossellini, who is perhaps not in the same league as Fellini and De Sica, but still a worthy entry into both WW2 and Italian realism genres. Rossellini is better known for his affair with Ingrid Bergman and producing offspring Isabella with her, but he also belongs on that short list of important Italian directors to emerge after the war.

In this story, three Allied prisoners, one English, one American, one Russian (how appropriate!), all escape and flee into the Italian countryside. There they are protected by locals out of a sense of Christian charity, and are smuggled into Rome, where they are hidden in an attic by black marketeer Esperia, wonderfully and credibly played by the beautiful Giovanni Ralli, who won best actress at the San Francisco Film Festival, and who dominates this film. The soldiers promise to leave as soon as possible rather than endanger Esperia, who risks a Nazi firing squad, but get trapped as they are surrounded by Nazis and collaborators, while being helped by Allied partisans fighting as anti-fascists.

Beautifully shot in black and white, with many dark but clear night shots very expertly lit. This has the feel of the ominous paintings of Italian De Chirico. The film bears the innacurate and misleading western title of "Escape by Night", while the accurate translation is "It Was Night in Rome", a more fitting description of the film's action. Don't be fooled by the misleading marketing that implies romantic interest in Esperia by the Allies, that's just bogus PR as the film is thankfully not that trite or soapy.

Quote: "Before the war, everyone was a fascist; once the Allies invaded Italy, no one was a fascist"

Note: the Russian soldier is played by Sergei Bondarchuk, who went on to become a director, who helmed the incredible 7-hour version of War and Peace in the late 60's


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Artist, photographer, composer, author, blogger, metaphysician, herbalist

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These are the individual film reviews of what I'm considering the best 1000 dvds available, whether they are films, miniseries, or live concerts. Rather than rush out all 1000 at once, I'm doing them over time to allow inclusion of new releases - in fact, 2008 has the most of any year so far, 30 titles in all; that was a very good year for films, one of the best ever.

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