Paisan (Paisa) (1946)

ROBERTO ROSSELLINI

Bil’s rating (out of 5):  BBB.5Italy, 1946.  Organizzazione Film Internazionali, Foreign Film Productions.  Story by , , , , , Screenplay by Sergio Amidei, Federico Fellini, Roberto Rossellini, .  Cinematography by .  Produced by Rod E. Geiger, Roberto Rossellini.  Music by .  Film Editing by .  Academy Awards 1949.  

Roberto Rossellini gives us a neo-realist multi-pack with this collection of six tales that take place in post-war Italy.  Each story focuses on a different part of the country dealing with the devastated landscape, the complicated politics that follow and the desperation that the people still find themselves in even though battle is coming to a close.  Most of them also involve interactions between Italians and American soldiers, including the first and most effective tale, of a local girl who strikes up a friendship with a chatty G.I. when taking him to find all the land mines left behind by the Germans.  All six are directed with Rossellini’s strength for realism (even one about a pair of lovers who reunite after she has become a prostitute manages not to be melodramatic), though the experience is a tad bit long and not all the stories have equal power (Rossellini oddly saves one of the weakest for last).  They don’t all emphasize grimness either, the director wisely including a wryly humorous tale of cloistered priests being visited by American army chaplains (one of whom is Jewish, and the humour derived from this must partly be the result of having a young Federico Fellini on the writing team).  The best aspect of many of the great filmmakers’ works from these years is that he made records of Italy in this terrible period, as this, Germany Year Zero and Open City are rich with real images of bombed and crumbling buildings, and such an advantage (from a historical point of view anyway) is well on display here.

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