Short Takes (II): "The Battle of San Pietro"

Filmed in Italy in 1943, John Huston’s documentary short The Battle of San Pietro (1945; 32 minutes) plays like a prelude to Italian neo-realism—it could even be considered an “honorary” Italian neo-realist film, improbably made by one of the most iconically American directors (and an Irish-American at that).  Huston’s war footage is, of course, startling, but some of the most affecting moments of the film come at the end, when we see the Italian peasants beginning the process of re-making their lives in a town ravaged by war.  Watching ragged, haunted-looking children smile at Huston’s camera, it’s difficult not to think about all of the unforgettable children’s faces soon to be immortalized by neo-realist cinema—the beggars in Rossellini’s Paisan (1946), the schoolboys in Open City (1945), the orphans of de Sica’s Shoeshine (1946).   

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