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Criterion Collection: Rossellini's War Trilogy [DVD] [1948] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]


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Product details

  • Language: Italian
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (US and Canada DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 4:3 - 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 3
  • Classification: NR (Not Rated) (US MPAA rating. See details.)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • ASIN: B002U6DVQ2
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 53,410 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)

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DVD Region US Import. Three WWII War Documentaries.

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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Stephanie De Pue TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 9 May 2012
Format: DVD
The Criterion Collection's recent release of "Roberto Rossellini's War Trilogy (Rome Open City / Paisan / Germany Year Zero), presents us with clean, remastered copies of these three memorable films. In them, we can see Rossellini invent Italian neo-realism on the screen; he had to, as, at the time he was working, Italy and Germany were nearly destroyed by World War II bombing, there was very little infrastructure left, and it was hard to get film, filmmaking equipment - and everything else. Thus, the director worked with natural light and sound. The trilogy also presents many informative extras: interviews with Rossellini's actress daughter Isabella; interviews with many of the films' actors, and film scholars, and Once Upon a Time . . . Rome Open City, a 2006 documentary on the making of Rossellini's most influential, important film.

"Rome Open City," (1945). This black and white, 100 minute long, unsettling war drama packs a lot into its brief running time. It is set in Rome, 1944, the waning days of World War II. The Germans are on the run, but still occupy the war-battered city that has been declared "Open" by parties to the war. It's anybody's for the taking. Its residents, largely old men, women and children endure a harrowing struggle with curfews, food shortages, joblessness, poverty, hunger and allied bombing raids. Meanwhile, they are trying to shield resistance forces from their de facto Nazi occupiers, and to maintain their self-respect. Rossellini's astonishing landmark film, which made its sensational debut at the Cannes Film Festival and was nominated for an Oscar for best screenplay, shows the Italian people's heartsick, weary despair and collective resolve to survive.
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Amazon.com: 23 reviews
62 of 67 people found the following review helpful
Is It Too Early to Nominate A Best DVD Set of the Year? 4 Feb. 2010
By C. Bleakley - Published on Amazon.com
Format: DVD
Wow, a week after this has been released there's still no reviews. I'd like to think that's because this set is jammed with such great content--movies and extras--that even the early adopters are still absorbing it.

It seems that Criterion thought long and hard about release #500. And it shows. These are three extraordinary movies. They're all over 60 years old, but they still pack an emotional and cinematic wallop.

"Open City" is the most familiar and revered title here. It has lost little of it's power or immediacy. Maybe the melodrama is a bit more obvious to our jaded 21st century sensibilities, but that doesn't mean you won't get caught up in the story. Short, plump Aldo Fabrizi plays one of the least unlikely resistance heroes imaginable, and Anna Magnani is nothing short of iconic. This may not be the birth of Italian Neo-realism, but it's certainly a precocious infancy.

"Paisan," here in its first US DVD release, was Rossellini's follow-up to "Open City." It seems to beg the question, how imperfect can a movie be and still be great? The acting is uneven to say the least (arguably the amateurs are more convincing that the professionals), not all of the six short story-like episodes are equally compelling, and most of them end with an unsatisfying abruptness. But on some very basic level, these imperfections just don't matter. In one of the special features, Martin Scorcese makes a very telling distinction between "realism" and "authenticity" and this film never feels less than authentic, often chillingly so.

"Germany Year Zero" is the most problematic of the films, if only because it's so heartbreaking, few people will want to sit through it more than once. It's nonetheless an amazng feat of sympathetic imagination, as Rossellini brings neo-realism to the ravaged streets of post-war Berlin. It's almost as if he's apologizing for depicting the Germans in "Open City" as so single-mindedly villianous.

I've blathered on and on yet I've barely scratched the surface. Virtually all the extra features are worthwhile, especially Adriano Apra's comments on each film. Picture quality, though imperfect, is far superior to the previous releases of "Open City" and "Germany Year Zero." Sadly, only "Open City" includes a commentary track, but more so than a lot of great movies, these films speak for themselves. An essential purchase for film buffs.
30 of 31 people found the following review helpful
A wonderful presentation of great films 30 Mar. 2010
By Albert Innaurato - Published on Amazon.com
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Two of these three Rossellini films made at the very end of WWll are considered classics: Rome, Open City, and Paisan. The third film, the disturbing Germany Year Zero has always been controversial and was a failure, though it is loved dearly by some.

The copies of the films are fantastic, especially Rome, Open City and Germany Year Zero, pristine, sharply focused black and white and Rossellini's great mastery of light, shadow and intensity and contrast of that palette is astoundingly captured. Paisan is a very good copy, though some shots are a little dim or faded looking. For those who know Rome and Paisan from VHS copies that circulated there is no comparison in any sense -- these are tremendously vivid, absolutely complete (the VHS copies I owned clipped small sections and had jumpy cuts), with superb sound tracks (that means tolerating Rossellini's brother's music which can be intrusive, especially in Paisan though one must assume auteur Rossellini wanted this since he was notoriously a complete control freak.)

Most people with any interest in film will know that Rome, Open City stunned Europe and was credited with creating a movement called 'neo-realism', though one of the late interviews with Rossellini included in the many invaluable extras shows him mocking the term. Whatever one calls it, much that happened in European film in the late forties and early 50's was influenced by both this film and Paisan -- Godard and Truffaut not to mention Fellini (who had his first serious film jobs assisting Rossellini on Rome and Paisan), De Sica and a host of others all traced their choices back to Rossellini's courage and vision.

Rossellini in that interview is a little defensive about Rome, Open City and the extras include the flamboyant stories of its making -- not all true (electricity was stolen -- true -- film stock had to be begged, borrowed or stolen and there was very little available, much of it of poor quality -- true; the film, contrary to standard claims, was not improvised at all, there was a completely written script shot precisely as written. Only a few of the prominent actors were amateurs, the great Anna Magnani was a well known film and stage actress and Aldo Fabrizi, the priest, was a big movie star though as a comic -- it was on his fame that Rossellini was able to raise his tiny budget). All the interiors were shot in a small film studio, not on location; the few exterior shots included serious risks though the one where Magnani chases after her finance who the Germans have seized and herded into a truck along with other men only to be shot as he screams at her to go back has to be one of the most memorable scenes in all of movie history even if her performance is a little operatic. Fabrizi is clearly more comfortable and convincing in the mildly quirky or funny scenes (probably written by Fellini)than when he needs to be very serious or righteous in facing the Nazi villain (glycerine tears are clearly used for him in one scene). But the scenes of his execution are very moving and the final image of his pupils, they've sneaked out of the city to see him die, slowly roaming off back to Rome is another unforgettable image.

Paisan is a different matter. This was entirely improvised though Klaus Mann (son of Thomas) had written a detailed scenario and another American, Alfred Hayes, had written a script. Rossellini discarded both except for a sequence in Rome written by Hayes -- the weakest stretch of the movie. It is six episodes, all short stories, though only a few have a neat beginning, middle and end. All but one of the performers was an amateur, the Italians were found in the different locations. The best of these are the story in Naples where a black G.I. meets up with a street urchin who is not to be trusted. The ruins of Naples, the drunk G.I. stumbling into a traditional Neapolitan puppet show (I suspect a Fellini idea), the street life of the jammed but ruined city and the devastating final scene are amazing. The final story where a group of Partisans and GI's (all cast from life) are hemmed in and eventually slaughtered by a small group of ruthless Germans on the marshes of the Po is stunning from every angle and was a tremendous influence on post war avant-garde film making.

Germany Year Zero is so horrifying it's hard to get to grips with. A young boy in a devastated Berlin where the Germans are starving is the sole support of a dysfunctional family and eventually takes drastic action. The story seems forced to some but the way it is shot and Rossellini's evident identification with the desperate, terrified and confused child carries one through some obvious contrivances. This has several brilliantly managed exterior scenes of the boy wandering in despair through the bombed out city that are tough to sit through but worth it.

The features are amazing, consistently interesting, sophisticated, enormously informative even when commentators contradict one another. A film about how the movies were assembled is revelatory. A photo montage of Rossellini's until now mysterious affair with a German woman (while he was married and seeing other women, he left her for the impossible Magnani much to his eventual regret) is stunning and moving.

When the films were shown on French TV Rossellini recorded introductions (watch the movies first) and those are invaluable. But some issues about Rossellini are scanted -- his earlier work in the Fascist film industry, which eventually cost him much of his popularity in Italy when it was revealed, the details of his monstrously difficult personality are left a little vague (though the letters written to and read by his only Italian collaborator on Germany year Zero, which include references to his idiosyncratic interaction with the slightly crazy Marlene Dietrich certainly convey a lot).

There is also his use of homosexuality to demonstrate the most unthinkable of all evils (the swishy but vicious Gestapo officer, his looming lesbian sidekick in Rome, Open City -- as though the Nazis tolerated open or even suspected homosexuals, they imprisoned or killed those they caught and none could have made a career in the Gestapo of all organizations, the pedophiles in Germany year Zero -- more plausible, maybe, but handled with a heavy hand) -- that's disturbing (in one of the late interviews Rossellini seems to apologize for this but doesn't go into detail). So he wasn't perfect or simple...

But this is the sort of treatment all great films should get and I can't imagine being without it.
9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
WW2 12 Mar. 2010
By John F., Warris, III - Published on Amazon.com
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Excellent ! A perfect collection of the war that I was in. Robertto Rossellini captured the human side of the WAR. A must have collection.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Anna Magnani was Anointed Mother of Rome 9 May 2012
By Stephanie De Pue - Published on Amazon.com
Format: DVD
The Criterion Collection's recent release of "Roberto Rossellini's War Trilogy (Rome Open City / Paisan / Germany Year Zero), presents us with clean, remastered copies of these three memorable films. In them, we can see Rossellini invent Italian neo-realism on the screen; he had to, as, at the time he was working, Italy and Germany were nearly destroyed by World War II bombing, there was very little infrastructure left, and it was hard to get film, filmmaking equipment - and everything else. Thus, the director worked with natural light and sound. The trilogy also presents many informative extras: interviews with Rossellini's actress daughter Isabella; interviews with many of the films' actors, and film scholars, and Once Upon a Time . . . Rome Open City, a 2006 documentary on the making of Rossellini's most influential, important film.

"Rome Open City," (1945). This black and white, 100 minute long, unsettling war drama packs a lot into its brief running time. It is set in Rome, 1944, the waning days of World War II. The Germans are on the run, but still occupy the war-battered city that has been declared "Open" by parties to the war. It's anybody's for the taking. Its residents, largely old men, women and children endure a harrowing struggle with curfews, food shortages, joblessness, poverty, hunger and allied bombing raids. Meanwhile, they are trying to shield resistance forces from their de facto Nazi occupiers, and to maintain their self-respect. Rossellini's astonishing landmark film, which made its sensational debut at the Cannes Film Festival and was nominated for an Oscar for best screenplay, shows the Italian people's heartsick, weary despair and collective resolve to survive.

Giorgio Manfredi, AKA Luigi Ferraris, a Communist and an engineer, who's one of the Italian resistance leaders, is tracked down by the Nazis. He flees to his friend Francesco's place, where Francesco's pregnant fiancée Pina, unforgettably played by Ann Magnani (The Secret of Santa Vittoria, The Rose Tattoo), finds him, and carries a message for him to the local priest, Don Pietro Pellegrini, who's to marry the lovers in a day or two. But the Nazis are hard on Manfredi's heels.

Rossellini ( STROMBOLI , Europa '51), actually co-wrote the screenplay - with possibly the greatest Italian star director of them all, Federico Fellini (8 1/2,La Dolce Vita), while the Germans still occupied Rome. He also started filming it while the Germans were still there. He had no film, and so had to piece together little bits and pieces he'd begged from the city's photographers. He was determined to have the film ready to release as soon as the Germans left Rome/were defeated in Italy. Therefore, he built no sets, and, for the first time in Italian cinema, filmed his story entirely on the actual streets and in the actual buildings of Rome. (He thereby established the Italian cinema protocol of realism, or neo-realism, as they preferred to call it, which held sway in Italian film for several decades.) He also didn't take much time - how could he--in composing the composition, the lighting - he used natural light--or the shadows of his film. He used actual German prisoners of war to portray his film's Germans - no Roman would have played a German at that time. As the dialog is entirely in Italian, this film has English subtitles, thank goodness.

There is a scalding scene of the pregnant Pina's murder by the Germans, as she is dressed for her wedding, in her best, but still laddered stockings. She is killed in front of her son, an altar boy in a blinding white cassock, made even brighter by the Italian sun. Upon release of the picture, which was an enormous hit, Magnani was widely anointed "the Mother of Rome."

Ironically enough, Rossellini, Fellini, and Michelangelo Antonioni,(L'Avventura, [[ASIN:B0007989Y8 L'Eclisse (The Criterion Collection)] ) another great and famous Italian director, all got their starts making propaganda films, depicting a happy Italy, under the aegis of Vittorio Mussolini, son of the Italian fascist dictator Benito Mussolini. These were called white telephone films, as they depicted pretty young women lounging next to their white telephones, waiting for their lovers to call. There's another pretty young woman lounging near her white telephone in ROME OPEN CITY, waiting for her lover's call; Marina Mari, Manfredi's mistress, and the relationship does not ultimately serve him well.

PAISAN, (1946) a 120-minute black and white war drama continues the director's depiction of Italy at the end of the war. In six vignettes, it follows the allied invasion of the country, from south to north from July 1943 to winter 1944. It begins in Sicily, where a young girl who is helping the American soldiers is killed. Thence to Naples, where an orphaned local boy steals the shoes from a sleeping-it-off black American MP, who tracks him to a shantytown. To Rome, where an American GI meets a lovely young woman the day the Americans liberate Rome: six months later they meet again; he is cynical, she is a prostitute. In Florence, an American nurse braves a dangerous trip across the Arno in a doomed search for the partisan leader she loves. In Monte Cassino, for which the allied and axis forces battled the longest, from January to May 1944, the arrival of three U.S. Army chaplains, including a Protestant and a Jew, upsets a local monastery. Finally, in the northern marshes of the Po River, which waters both Milan and Venice, we find Allied soldiers and partisans seamlessly working together. This is an ambitious, very moving film, now available here for the first time in its full original release version. But one caveat: while we get subtitles for the Italians, we get none for the Americans. And natural, outdoors sound, nonprofessional actors make their dialog very difficult to follow. However, it is possible to follow the action in outline.

GERMANY YEAR ZERO, (1948), (78 minutes), gives us a horrifying snapshot of civilian life in war-ravaged Berlin shortly after the war. The concluding chapter of the war trilogy is devastatingly intense and effective, a portrait of an obliterated Berlin shown through the eyes of Edmund Kohler, a twelve-year-old boy whom Rossellini told interviewers strongly resembled his own son, who had been dead for a year at the time of filming. Edmund lives in a bombed-out apartment building, where ten families have been jammed into one apartment, with a bedridden father and two older siblings. His older brother Karl-Heinz had been in the German Army and fought up to the end, the corner of the block on which they live, so is afraid of reprisals for this, and accordingly has never registered with the postwar authorities. Therefore, the family of four has only three ration cards. Edmund's pretty older sister Eva gets dressed up to go out every night drinking and dancing. But she does not pursue these evenings to what a viewer would expect to be their obvious conclusion, and therefore comes home every night with only a few cigarettes, rather than cash money, to show for her time. This leaves handsome young Edmund as the sole breadwinner for his family. He is mostly left to wander unsupervised, seeking to bring back money and/or food to these hungry people. Edmund gets involved in the black-market schemes of a group of teenagers. He also comes under the malign influence of a Nazi-sympathizing former teacher of his, whose ideas sway him in anti-social ways. Rossellini seems to be telling us that the boy's former teacher is probably homosexual, and therefore immoral. By the way, as this movie is in German, it is fully subtitled, thank goodness.

If you are interested in history, World War II, or Italy and/or Germany, you probably should see these films, though they certainly can be downers. No contemporary audience can quite imagine how powerful these films were in their time, but, believe me, they are still tremendously powerful, and will certainly live a good long time because of their overwhelming performances and documentary value. Not to be missed.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
This "War Trilogy" is a trilogy of tragedy, which is appropriate since war is tragic. 26 Feb. 2014
By John Black - Published on Amazon.com
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
"Rome Open City" is set in Rome during the German occupation. It follows a few of Italians, some are actively fighting against the Germans, some are just trying to get by, while others are helping the Germans. The ties and conflicts between the Italian Christians, the Italian Communists and the Italian Fascists are dramatized in the film. Children also play a large part in the overall plot. Drug addition and homosexuality are also shown during the film.
The extras include an audio commentary with the movie which helps explain some of the things which the Italians would have picked up on in the forties which Americas might, and probably would, miss. The disc also includes other interesting documentaries and interviews.

"Paisan" is actually six short films strung together one after the other following the American's advance northward up the peninsula of Italy driving the Germans out. It follows not only the progression of the Americans northward, but also the progression of the relationship between the Americans and the Italians. It also shows the destruction to Italy by both the Germans and the Americans. Each short film, while remaining part of the overall advance of the Americans, has its own characters and its own plot.
This disc does not have a commentary with the movie but does have some interesting extras which shed some additional light on the movie.

The third disc in the set shows Germany during the first year after the war. Due to several circumstances the 12-year-old boy of the primary family in the movie has become, if not the major bread winner of the family, at least a major contributor. The movie shows several aspects of life in Germany during this time period. Food and other shortages, housing difficulties, and the black-market. Some remaining pro-nazi supporters are also shown, with a strong hint of them being pedophiles.
This disc also has some interesting extras which shed extra light on the circumstances being shown in the movie.
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