Get real with Rossellini's 'Open City'

By by dianna wray/
Sept. 7, 2011 at 4:07 a.m.

War does terrible things, but it also creates some pretty impressive art.

Take Roberto Rossellini's film, "Open City," starring Anna Magnani and Alberto Fabrizi.

Rossellini and fellow Italian director Federico Fellini wrote the script for the film only days after the Allies had ejected the Germans from Rome.

World War II was over and the city they had known lay in pieces around them. Being the artist-types they were, the two soon-to-be-famed directors wrote a story that captured the grim reality of German-occupied Italy during World War II.

Rossellini began shooting the film in January 1945. Actual film was hard to come by at the time in the early post-war days in Europe. Rossellini likely cobbled his film together from bits and pieces of film stock, resulting in the grainy, news-reel quality of the film.

The film is one of the great Neorealist classics of Italian cinema. This era of Italian film rejected any fakery in favor of authenticity. In the case of "Open City," you don't get much more authentic than war-ravaged Rome.

The film will twist your heart, and if you don't leave the theater hungering to take in some more Italian cinema, you'll at least be able to know what people are talking about when they bring up Italian film directors. Whether you take this film in so you can talk about it later in a bored snooty tone (which is kind of lame), or just watch it to broaden your horizons a bit, go check out one of Rossellini's finest works.

The film is showing at Houston's Museum of Fine Arts as part of the film series "Days of Glory: Italian Neorealist Classics." "Open City" is showing at 7 p.m. Saturday and the series runs through Sept. 30.

Heck, if you like this one, you can go see the rest on a nice, big screen in a nice, dark theater. You can even have a pizza or something first to get you in the mood.



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