Daily Archives: October 12, 2021

The Humanity of the Defeated: GERMANY YEAR ZERO

Written in September 2009 for a Criterion’s DVD box set devoted to Roberto Rossellini’s War trilogy, released a few months later. — J.R.

Unlike the more aesthetically and intellectually conceived French New Wave, Italian neorealism was above all an ethical initiative — a way of saying that people were important, occasioned by a war that made many of them voiceless, faceless, and nameless victims. But this was, of course, a conviction that carried plenty of aesthetic and intellectual, as well as spiritual, consequences, including some that we’re still mulling over today.

Deliberately or not, Germany Year Zero concludes Roberto Rossellini’s War Trilogy by posing a kind of philosophical conundrum, a fact already signaled by its title, which he borrowed, with permission, from a book by French sociologist Edgar Morin. It was a title that stumped even Joseph Burstyn and Arthur Mayer, the American producers of Rome Open City and Paisan, and the fact that Rossellini, characteristically trusting his instincts, refused to say what he meant by it eventually encouraged them to back out of the project, which was largely financed by the French government.… Read more »

The Golden Coach

From the Chicago Reader (8/21/92). — J.R.

Essential viewing. Anna Magnani plays the head of a commedia dell’arte troupe touring colonial Peru in the early 18th century who dallies with her three lovers (Paul Campbell, Ricardo Rioli, and Duncan Lamont) in this pungent, gorgeous color masterpiece by Jean Renoir, shot in breathtaking images by his brother Claude. In fact, this filmic play-within-a-play, based on a play by Prosper Merimee, is a celebration of theatricality and a meditation on the beauties and mysteries of acting–it’s both a key text and pleasurable filmmaking at its near best. (Widely regarded as the first in a loose 50s trilogy of Renoir films with related preoccupations, followed by Only the French Can and Paris Does Strange Things, it may well be the best of the lot.) Though this is widely known as a French film, its original and better version is in English, which is the version showing in this restoration supervised by Martin Scorsese. With Odoardo Spadaro, Nada Fiorelli, and Jean Debucourt (1953). (Music Box, Friday through Thursday, August 21 through 27)

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