12.26.2011

The Most Famous Films I've Never Seen...Until Now (Part 7 of 10): Roughing it



Like everyone else, I’ve been pre-occupied these past few weeks with holiday-related business, so posting has been less regular.  But I wanted to say just a quick word about Roberto Rossellini’s Paisan (1946), which I finally got around to seeing early last week.  The middle film in his war trilogy, it only first came to DVD a year or so ago in a box set from (who else) Criterion, who spent countless hours restoring the print to a workable condition.  The picture quality and audio still look rough—and maybe that’s appropriate to the film itself, which is a kind of collection of rough-hewn episodes picked out of the rubble, as it were, of war-torn Italy (an American G.I. bonds with an orphaned scamp; a British nurse searches for her lover in Florence, etc.).  Paisan is itself a crazy quilt made out of foraged scraps.  Its encounters between Americans, Germans, Italians, and Britons are fleeting, driven by chance, made complicated by language barriers and losses in translation.  And—true to the neo-realist spirit—it is a film that sees largely through the eyes of children (some of the film’s most expert scavengers and thieves).  We need only think about the schoolboys of Rossellini’s Open City (1945), the regazzi of de Sica’s Shoeshine (1945), or wide-eyed Bruno in Bicycle Thieves (1948) to know how central children are to the neo-realist aesthetic.  So the somewhat battered look of Criterion’s Paisan is lamentable but appropriate—torn from the rubble, it will never have the polished elegance of, say, The Rules of the Game.  More in a week or so, as I finish up this project with three more new-to-me classics.     

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