Rome, Open City – Roberto Rossellini (1945)

After reviewing a war classic in Kubrick’s ‘Paths of Glory’ & a classic of Italian Cinema in ‘La Dolce Vita’ I decided to fuse the two genres by watching Roberto Rossellini’s legendary breakthrough film that combined both of these in the form of ‘Rome, Open City’. Having filmed this secretly during the abhorrent occupation of Rome by the Nazis, there can be little disagreement that this film is about as real as a war film can get. Rossellini’s deft merger of fiction with reality provides us with an insightful perspective into the life of the Roman during this period. 

“Open City is a landmark in film history. Filmed in secrecy during the Nazi occupation of Italy, the film shows a realistic portrayal of the underground resistance in Italy in 1945. The film has strong impacting imagery with it’s mix of fiction and reality that strengthened Italian Neo-realism and the film industry.”

The most powerful scene in the film that really embedded the message was in the form of a dialogue between a  German Officer and the Major during the torture of ‘Manfredi’:

[From IMDb]

Hartman: 25 years ago, I commanded firing squads in France. I was a young officer. I believed then, too, in a German “master-race.” But the French patriots also died without talking. We Germans simply refuse to believe that people want to be free.

Major Bergman: [Taken aback] You’re drunk, Hartman!

Hartman: Yes, I’m drunk… I get drunk every night to forget. It doesn’t help. We can’t get anywhere but kill, kill, kill! We have sown Europe with corpses… and from those graves rises an incredible hate… HATE!… everywhere hate! We are being consumed by hatred… without hope.

This is for me the consummation of the general disposition of the Romans towards the war, but this was too met by the ferocity of the final scene in which the Priest, who plays an apt voice of reason as they did for many during the war, is shot in front of a firing squad. 

In conclusion, the reason my review is shorter than previous reviews, is that it doesn’t need much analysis, it’s a masterpiece in itself and its messages and sentiments are there for all to see. As a result I urge you to watch it if you haven’t and I give this a rating of 7/10.




‘La Dolce Vita’ – Federico Fellini (1960)

As I am now getting into the practice of writing about films, for my fourth review I will write about the legendary ‘La Dolce Vita’ by Federico Fellini. As a relative newcomer to the mastery of Fellini, I can only compare this to his subsequent opus ‘8 ½’ which is similar in that they both star Marcello Mastroianni and that he plays a very similar role in both. They are very different, however, in that 8 ½ is considered an art piece as it concentrates itself into an artistic experience in which the fantasies and realities of Fellini’s lead-man intertwine. La Dolce Vita on the other hand, is a visual essay that supposedly landmarks the dichotomy between Fellini’s neo-realist films and his art films (the difference between this and 8 ½ is undeniably indicative of this). La Dolce Vita appears to be an essay on the nature of society in Rome in the 1950s-60s and without a true narrative-focused structure Fellini creates a wonderful episodic masterpiece that is not only a true classic but was so outlandish at the time that it has been thought of as a scandalous and scorning portrayal of Roman society. This is most purely delineated by the well-known public animosity expressed by the Vatican upon its release.

“A series of stories following a week in the life of a philandering paparazzo journalist living in Rome.”

As far as the film itself goes, it is most well recognized for the famous scene at the Trevy Fountain which Marcello spends with Sylvia (Anita Ekberg), an American actress (pictured below). The film paints an image of society and the creation of the ‘celebrity culture’ that is more true than ever and the fact that Fellini captured this so brilliantly and so truly as early as 1960 is the feat of a true genius. The film may not provide the same shock value that it certainly would have 54 years ago but we can still learn an abundance of knowledge about the life and culture of Rome in the 1960s.

I mentioned in my second post that I had undertaken the decision to embark on a film adventure to discover the influences of Paolo Sorrentino for his modern classic “The Great Beauty” and anyone who has seen both films will dogmatically agree that “La Dolce Vita” is the single-handed true influence of the film. Both films are episodic in structure, both set in Rome, both identical protagonists in all forms but age. I would argue that this is no coincidence and they are both brilliantly document the life of Rome in their respective epochs. In fact, I would go so far as to say that, having watched La Grande Bellezza first, it is almost as if Sorrentino’s creation is a continuation of Fellini’s masterpiece. It almost seems that Jep, the protagonist in the 2013 film, is an older, more cultured and experienced version of Fellini’s philandering protagonist, Marcello. However, I will leave that for you to decide!

In conclusion, there is no denying the brilliance of ‘La Dolce Vita’ and its reputation as one of the true classics of cinema must go unscathed and be truly celebrated for years to come. I give it an 8.5/10.

Thanks for reading,


La Grande Bellezza (The Great Beauty 2013) – Paolo Sorrentino

As a result of my naivete and lack of knowledge/experience in film I have to admit that this is the first film by Paolo Sorrentino that I have seen and also one of the very few Italian films I’ve managed to cross off the list (others including Bicycle Thieves & 8 1/2). However, this screening has inspired me to embark on a mini ‘movie adventure’ and will endeavour to watch the films that must have had such a huge influence on Sorrentino. The films I had in mind were La Dolce Vita, La Strada etc.

The reason for the decision is purely through the brilliance of this movie, most notably it’s cinematography but it’s narrative and storyline which border on perfection. The film follows the protagonist Jep who is an aged writer in modern Rome who experiences death in his ex-girlfriend and first love from his youth and as a result pursues the ‘Great Beauty’ and scorning his party-hard lifestyle. I knew from the first minute of viewing that I would enjoy the film as intensely as I did, the opening few minutes provided a wonderful glimpse into what I would experience over the next few hours.

You may watch the TIFF trailer here: 

The film was recommended to me by a friend and I have to admit that I knew little about Sorrentino or the film but was told it was essentially Malick meets Fellini and I’m not sure, from a purely technical perspective that I could summarize it better. The film had loose but recognizable cinematic similarities with Malick’s ‘Tree of Life’ in that he absorbed that idyllic image of nature and bringing nature to the screen in a very similar way to Malick. The impact of Fellini’s La Dolce Vita must have been diligently subtle yet large due to the setting of Rome and genre of both movies. Although I wouldn’t call it influence or stealing (clearly) I did notice that Sorrentino adopted a character from Fellini’s 8 1/2 (see below), however, it is very plausible that it is a coincidence I felt it perhaps a subtle and silent homage to the king of Italian Cinema. Both characters played bit part roles in each film of probably equal screen time. Although there is no way of really knowing, as I said, I like to think that it is a silent tribute to Fellini’s masterpiece.

584156-21546-clp-950 85pdvd_014

The Great Beauty I would argue, is what critics would call a modern classic. It had all the qualities in acting, in script, and in content of a Fellini film or other films labelled as ‘classics’. It also managed to finely weave these qualities so deftly with the modern intricacy of technology and cinematic excellence that the advancement of film-making has allowed directors and directors of photography to achieve. Furthermore, it was filled with  sporadic bouts of beautiful monologues from the film’s protagonist himself, my favourite of which closed the entire movie:

“This is how it always ends. With death. But first there was life, hidden beneath the blah, blah, blah… It’s all settled beneath the chitter chatter and the noise, silence and sentiment, emotion and fear. The haggard, inconstant flashes of beauty. And then the wretched squalor and miserable humanity. All buried under the cover of the embarrassment of being in the world, blah, blah, blah… Beyond there is what lies beyond. And I don’t deal with what lies beyond. Therefore… let this novel begin. After all… it’s just a trick. Yes, it’s just a trick.”

As a piece of literature alone this is almost poetic and beautiful in itself, but combined with the exquisite cinematic abilities of Sorrentino and his team it made for a truly brilliant ending, and creating an irony in itself, that the film about ‘The Great Beauty’ became the product to modern cinema of its proclamations. As far as writing and literature goes, about 30 minutes into the movie I thought that it had reminded me significantly of a book I’d read called Sentimental Education by Gustave Flaubert, not in story but in style and its image of romance and beauty. Low and behold, about two or three times after that, Jep (the protagonist) mentioned Flaubert and how he wanted to write a book about nothing! Perhaps this too was a coincidence but can only be of great tribute to the director that his work is so indicative of classical writers and film-makers alike.

In summation, I would continue to assert that this film is the very definition of a modern classic: meaty in length and content, filled with comedic triumphs, unwinding the mysteries of sex and tackles the subject of religion with an entertaining and not in the least dull mentality. Moreover, Jep just might be the coolest person to exist in both fiction and reality – so that’s an added bonus. I give this film a confident 8.5/10.

For further discussion tweet me @ianmperrin.