There are certain films that shaped World Cinema and still have a rippling effect on filmmakers and film buffs. One such film is Italian director Roberto Rossellini’s “Rome Open City” (“Roma citta aperta,” 1945). Made shortly after the occupying Germans were forced out of Italy by the Allied Forces in 1944, Rossellini along with script writers Sergio Amidei and Frederico Fellini, capture the lives of several Italian resistance fighters as they hide from the Nazis over a period of a few days in Rome. Their idea was based on true incidents of the occupation, but with fictional characters, stated during the film’s opening titles.
Upon release and with great acclaim, “Rome Open City” became the international poster child of Italian Neo-Realism, (new realism), which encompassed socially conscious stories of everyday people, filmed mostly on locations using natural light and utilizing many non-actors. Martin Scorsese has described the film as “the most precious moment of film history,” and its award intake includes winning the Grand Prize at Cannes in 1946. Its authentic and heartfelt storytelling easily propels the film to many of the “All Time Best Film” lists.
Rossellini was smart in his picks of non-actors, as well as casting a few well-known Italian actors. Aldo Fabrizi stars as the Parish Priest Don Pietro Pellegrini. Anna Magnani plays the pregnant widow, Pina, who is about to be married to resistance fighter Francesco (Francesco Grandjacquet).
The film’s story is simple, but moving: the Nazis are looking for Resistance leader Manfredi (Marcello Pagliero). As he goes undercover at his friend Francesco’s apartment in Rome, we meet Pina, Pina’s young son Marcello, and Don Pietro. All know how important Manfredi’s work is, and all assist him to varying degrees, albeit with a number of tragic outcomes. Added to the mix are Nazis, femme fatales, misunderstood showgirls, drugs, bribery, torture, as well as a positive call to resistance, followed by hope via the young boys.
Like a fine Italian wine, “Rome Open City” has aged very well, and its themes feel as powerfully relevant today as in 1945. Rolling out in select theaters, the fully restored and re-subtitled “Rome Open City” opens Friday, February 20 in Los Angeles at the Nuart Theatre for an exclusive one-week run. The film received a 4K Digital Restoration by Cineteca Nazionale—Fondazione Scuola Nazionale di Cenematografia, Coproduction Office and Istituto Luce Cinecitta.
To celebrate the restored screening of “Rome Open City,” Stefano Paltera of the Italian Cultural Institute will appear in person on Friday, February 20 to introduce the 7:30 p.m. show. Check the Nuart Theatre website for details.