Paisan

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Paisan
Paisaposter.jpg
Directed by Roberto Rossellini
Produced by Rod E. Geiger
Roberto Rossellini
Mario Conti
Written by Sergio Amidei
Klaus Mann
Federico Fellini
Marcello Pagliero
Alfred Hayes
Vasco Pratolini
Starring Carmela Sazio
Robert Van Loon
Dots Johnson
Alfonsino
Maria Michi
Gar Moore
Harriet Medin
Renzo Avanzo
William Tubbs
Dale Edmonds
Cigolani
Narrated by Giulio Panicali
Music by Renzo Rossellini
Cinematography Otello Martelli
Edited by Eraldo Da Roma
Distributed by Arthur Mayer & Joseph Burstyn
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date(s)
  • 10 December 1946 (1946-12-10)
Running time 134 minutes
Country Italy
Language Italian
English
Sicilian

Paisan (Italian: Paisà) is a 1946 Italian film directed by Roberto Rossellini, the second of a trilogy by Rossellini.[1] It is divided into six episodes.[2] They are set in the Italian Campaign during World War II when Nazi Germany was losing the war against the Allies. A major theme is communication problems due to language barriers.

The film was nominated for both the Academy Award for Best Writing (Original Screenplay) and the BAFTA Award for Best Film from any source. It was the most popular Italian film at the box office in 1945-46, finishing ahead of Mario Mattoli's melodrama Life Begins Anew.[3]

Plot[edit]

1st Episode[edit]

During the Allied invasion of Sicily, a small American reconnaissance patrol makes its way to a Sicilian village at night. Only one of the Americans speaks Italian. Local Carmela (Carmela Sazio) agrees to guide them past a German minefield. They take shelter in the ruins of a seaside castle.

While the others take a look around, Joe (Robert Van Loon) is assigned to keep an eye on Carmela. Despite the language barrier, Joe starts to overcome her indifference. However, he is shot by a German sniper. Before the Germans reach the castle, Carmela hides Joe in the basement. When the Germans send her for water, she sneaks back and checks on Joe, only to find him dead. She takes his rifle and starts shooting at the enemy. The Germans throw her off a cliff to her death and leave. When the Americans return, they find Joe's body and assume Carmela killed him.

2nd Episode[edit]

The Allies invade mainland Italy and capture the port of Naples. An orphaned street urchin named Pasquale (Alfonsino Pasca) happens upon Joe (Dots Johnson), an embittered, somewhat drunk African-American soldier. When Joe falls asleep, Pasquale takes his boots. The next day, Joe, a military policeman, nabs Pasquale in the act of stealing supplies from a truck. Joe demands his boots back, but when the boy takes him to where he lives, the sight of the squalor causes Joe to leave without them.

3rd Episode[edit]

Fred (Gar Moore) is one of the soldiers who helps liberate Rome. During a rest stop, he gets out of his tank and persuades city resident Francesca (Maria Michi) to let him wash up in her apartment. In the little time they spend together, they are attracted to each other, and Fred promises to return.

Six months later, Fred is back in Rome, where he is taken by a street prostitute back to her place. He wants nothing to do with her; instead he tells her how he futilely searched for Francesca, not recognizing her as the prostitute. When he falls asleep, Francesca slips out, asks the building manager to give her home address to Fred when he wakes up. However, she waits in vain; the now-cynical Fred, who thinks the address given him is of a whorehouse, throws away the piece of paper away and heads back to his unit.

4th Episode[edit]

The southern half of Florence is freed, but fierce fighting continues across the river in the other half between Italian partisans and the Germans and their die-hard fascist supporters. All the bridges other than the Ponte Vecchio have been blown up, stalling the Allied advance. American nurse Harriet (Harriet Medin) is frantic to get across and be reunited with a painter.

She learns that he is now "Lupo", the leader of the partisans. She and partisan Massimo (Renzo Avanzo), a man desperate for news of his family, risk their lives and find a way across. However, Harriet is devastated to learn that Lupo has been killed.

5th Episode[edit]

Three American chaplains are welcomed to stay the night at a newly liberated Roman Catholic monastery. However, the monks are later dismayed to find that only Captain Bill Martin (William Tubbs) is a Catholic; his friends are a Protestant and a Jew. When they sit down to supper, Martin learns that the monks have decided to fast in hopes of gaining the favor of Heaven to convert the other two.

6th Episode[edit]

In December 1944, three members of the OSS are operating behind German lines with Italian partisans. They rescue two downed British airmen, but run out of ammunition during a battle with the enemy and are captured. The partisans are summarily executed the next day, as they are not protected by the Geneva Conventions; two of the outraged prisoners of war are shot when they try to interfere.

Production[edit]

After the enormous international success of Rome, Open City, Rossellini was able to get funding from international investors, particularly in the U.S. He decided to make a film about the liberation of Italy from the Allied invasion in 1943 to the end of World War II in 1945. Unusually for a film with much dialogue not in English, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer took over distribution of the movie in the United States (from smaller firm Burstyn & Mayer), helping its visibility.[4]

Rossellini enlisted six writers to each write a short script on the subject. In order of episodes, they were Klaus Mann, Marcello Pagliero, Sergio Amidei, Federico Fellini, Rossellini, and Vasco Pratolini. Each episode also took place in a different Italian location. Despite the scripts, Rossellini often improvised with the actors and rewrote the stories as they were being filmed. During the first episode filmed in Sicily, Rossellini completely threw out the script and coached the non-professional, illiterate lead actress Carmela Sazio to a performance that would gain critical praise.[5]

Critical reception[edit]

Bosley Crowther of the New York Times hailed it, writing it "marks a milestone in the expressiveness of the screen."[6] He went on to say "It is useless to attempt an explanation, in familiar and concrete terms, of its basic theme and nature, for it is not an ordinary film—neither in form nor dramatic construction nor in the things it has to say", "the antithesis of the classic 'story film'".[6] He ended his review with "This is a film to be seen—and seen again."[6]

Jóse Luis Guarner praised the first episode, stating that the camera "keeps still throughout the long conversation, content to look and record, like a film by Louis Lumiere. A lot more is suggested than can actually be seen: the soldier's loneliness, his need to talk to someone, his longing for home and family, the girl's growing confidence...to show all this with such economy of means is one of the greatest secrets of the cinema. The whole of Paisà witnesses the same pressing need to portray a complex reality directly, at one go." Guarner went on to call it "Rossellini's first masterpiece, a masterpiece of neorealism as well as one of the peaks of film history."[5]

Andre Bazin wrote that "the unit of cinematic narrative in Pasià is not the "shot", an abstract of a reality which is being analyzed, but the "fact": A fragment of concrete reality in itself multiple and full of ambiguity, whose meaning emerges only [afterwards]...thanks to other imposed facts between which the mind establishes certain relationships." Robin Wood praised the film's newsreel footage like style in adding to the realism and compared the scene of peasants being rounded up in the Po Valley to the Odessa Step sequence in Battleship Potemkin.[5]

TV Guide called it "perhaps Rossellini's greatest achievement", "a wartime portrait full of humor, pathos, romance, tension, and warmth", and "a film unlike any other the world had seen".[7] "PAISAN highlights the power of the neorealist style better than almost any other film."[7]

The Chicago Reader's Dave Kehr observed that "The episodes all seem to have an anecdotal triteness ... but each acquires a wholly unexpected naturalness and depth of feeling from Rossellini's refusal to hype the anecdotes with conventional dramatic rhetoric."[8]

Richard Brody of The New Yorker noted that "the sketch-like format of the six-part Paisan, from 1946, enabled him to mix actors and nonactors, to film in sequence and improvise his stories as he went along, and to use newsreel-style camerawork."[9]

All eight Rotten Tomatoes reviews are favorable toward the film.[10] Director Martin Scorsese has also listed it as one of his favourite films of all time and his all-time favorite of the Rossellini films.[11]

Influence[edit]

Roberto Rossellini's film would inspire future directors, such as Italian Gillo Pontecorvo, to become filmmakers themselves. Later, Pontecorvo would create films, like Battle of Algiers (1967), in which he adopted Rosselini’s techniques of using non-professional actors and real locations.[12]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Tobias, Scott (February 3, 2010). "Roberto Rossellini's War Trilogy: Rome Open City / Paisan / Germany Year Zero". The A.V. Club. 
  2. ^ Bertellini, Giorgio (2004). The Cinema of Italy. p. 31. 
  3. ^ Bayman, Louis (ed.) Directory of World Cinema: Italy. Intellect Books, 2011. p.96
  4. ^ Leslie Halliwell and John Walker, Halliwell's Film & Video Guide, 1999. New York: HarperCollins, 1998
  5. ^ a b c Wakeman, John. World Film Directors, Volume 2. The H. W. Wilson Company. 1987. p. 962.
  6. ^ a b c Bosley Crowther (March 30, 1948). "Paisan (1946)". New York Times. 
  7. ^ a b "Paisan: Review". TV Guide. Retrieved June 26, 2010. 
  8. ^ Dave Kehr. "Paisan". Chicago Reader. Retrieved June 26, 2010. 
  9. ^ Brody, Richard (January 25, 2010). "Roberto Rossellini's "War Trilogy" on DVD : The New Yorker". The New Yorker. 
  10. ^ "Paisan (1946)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved June 26, 2010. 
  11. ^ "Scorsese’s 12 favorite films". Miramax.com. Retrieved 25 December 2013. 
  12. ^ Thompson, Kristin; Bordwell, David (2010). Film History: An Introduction, Third Edition. New York, NY: McGraw Hill. 

External links[edit]