Rome, Open City (Roma, Città Aperta) is a 1945 Italian neo-realist drama film directed by Roberto Rossellini. The picture features Anna Magnani (in her film debut), Aldo Fabrizi and Marcello Pagliero, and is set in Rome during the Nazi occupation in 1944.
The title refers to Rome being declared an open city after 14 August 1943. In war, an open city is a settlement which has announced it has abandoned all defensive efforts, generally in the event of the imminent capture of the city to avoid destruction of historic and cultural landmarks. Once a city has declared itself an open city, the opposing military will be expected to peacefully occupy the city rather than destroy it. In the case of Rome, while landmarks might have been saved, the battle continued between the Italian Resistance and the occupying German forces.
The film won several awards at various film festivals, including the most prestigious Cannes' Grand Prize, and was also nominated for the Best Original Screenplay Oscar at the 19th Academy Awards. The most intriguing thing about this film is to watch the powerful and human performance by Anna Magnani in her first film role. Rossellini handled the grim subject of occupation well, with the occasional instances of comical Italian characters in awkward situations. It is also amazing to see an antifascist film made so close to the liberation of Italy in 1945. Many scenes show people living in partially bombed-out apartment blocks. If this film doesn't bring your pathos to the surface, nothing will.
I happened upon this film yesterday on one of my vintage film channels, but it was such a terribly fuzzy print that I went searching to find a better one... this YouTube print is impeccable.
Click the image below to watch the film...
For those who might have missed it, here is the best, un-edited live stream of Easter Mass at St. Peters Basilica with Pope Francis. There are overdubbed English translations. After the mass, the Pope gives his Urbi et Orbi (City and the World) message to all us.
The stark scenes of Pope Francis holding mass in an empty Basilica are very moving, reminding us of the crisis we all still have to get through.
Buona Pasqua, tutti.
Andrà tutto bene...
Click the video below to watch the Easter Mass at St. Peters Basilica
There are many of us that don't just drive to get from point A to point B. We drive just to drive. We might not even care about the mechanics of the beast firing all cylinders under our foot, but we care about the feel and exhilaration of driving. Driving is special when one finds a special road--curves, views, nature and the wheel in our hands in control of it all passing by. I've driven in many types of roads in many conditions... mountain roads, foggy roads, logging roads, cobblestone roads, from the streets of Manhattan and around the Étoile in Paris to the Alps, the Cote Azure and throughout Italy from North to South. But there was always one dream of mine: To drive the Amalfi Coast Road. But did the dream match up to the reality?
The video below illustrates the dream of every connoisseur of the art of driving... a cool sports car, preferably a convertible, speeding around curvy roads with amazing views. Little traffic, the road ahead is "mine". What a romantic ideal. A dream drive on one of the best driving roads in the world--the Amalfi Coast Road...
Now, as for the reality, check out the videos below. These show the real Amalfi Coast Road Experience. Part Paradise Part Hell. When the rare opportunity to "open it up" presents itself, you might get a 5 second burst of speed finding yourself jamming on the brakes as the next huge tour bus comes around the next bend, way over the center line. The scooters and cycles will pass you and anything else... but wait, they are not really passing... it seems that the line in the middle of the road (when one is there at all) is the dedicated two-wheeler lane. And although many parts of the road are too narrow for parking, the locals park there anyway, even if it brings the barely two lane width down to a single lane. Trucks and buses will make YOU back up. They take priority.
Then there are the cyclists and pedestrians talking up a valuable 4-5 feet on one side of the road, causing you frustrating minutes waiting for the opportunity to zoom around them only to have to jam on your breaks or shift down again as the next idiot comes around the next bend, as if it's a one lane road going only in his direction.
And if you go to the Amalfi Coast at any other time other than winter (November through early March), you will run into the tourists casually strolling through the narrow streets of each town you pass through. They even walk shoulder-to-shoulder through the many tunnels. Want to get away from the main road and climb up to the many villages dotted up near the Path of the Gods? You will experience some of the tightest switch-back road climbs, dotted with locals shopping, parked anywhere they please, with the occasional truck or donkey blocking your path. You might even run into a flock of sheep clogging the road.
Although incredibly beautiful, driving the Amalfi Coast Road is simply the most tense, frustrating drive you will ever make. One more thing... Italians pretty much ignore stop signs and traffic lights.
--Jerry Finzi, GVI
The video above is a 360 degree, interactive video.
Drag your mouse or cursor around to look to the side, front or behind as this driver maneuvers through the traffic.
During the coronavirus lock-down, we have to be creative with our time. Since it is still cool, perhaps you would like to learn to make your own sausages.
Click the photo below to see this great demonstration by Nonna Franca.
During the coronavirus lock-downs, we have to keep our minds healthy as well as our bodies. For anyone loving Italy, its lifestyle, its history or just love anything Italian, here are some suggestions for films and documentaries and series to watch on Amazon Prime either for free or rental.
Rita Moreno and James Gandofini add to the humor of this Italian-American comedy about a family pizzeria barely staying in business. Perhaps a stereotypical view of Italian-Americans, but the funny characters make it worth watching.
Let Yourself Go (subtitles)
A self-involved psychoanalyst's tightly ordered world is thrown for a loop by two women: Claudia, a high-spirited fitness instructor who tries to give him a makeover, and Giovanna, his ex-wife who lives next door and still does his laundry. Definitely worth spending time with these characters.
Io Sono Gaetano (subtitles)
Gaetano has just turned 60 and, in the family clan to which he belongs, hasn't managed to make it any further than the boss's driver. He dreams of leaving the mafia, of retiring to the countryside, but it's not that easy to get away from the mafia. His wife, the boss's sister, doesn't think much of Gaetano's dreams.
Il Mio Giorno (subtitles)
Matteo, is a 70 year old man who decides to end his life but not before throwing a party for his last day. Relatives and friends try to persuade him to change his mind, while he is supported in his decision by a young woman, employee of the funeral service agency he contacted. A surreal, dark comedy.
Enchanted April (rental)
Four dissimilar women in 1920s England leave their rainy environments to vacation in an Italian castle. Two of them are struggling to make the best of unhappy marriages, one is an elderly but elegant prude, and the fourth is Lady Caroline Dester, a young, wealthy, chic flapper. Beautifully filmed in Portofino, Joan Plowright, Miranda Richardson and Alfred Molina elevate the acting in this treasure.
What do you do when your father confesses on his death bed that you have a brother? Two brothers - one American, one Italian, who've never met - take a road trip from Rome to the picturesque region of Molise on a journey to spread the ashes of their late father in the small town where he was born. We loved this little film and watching as these newfound brothers clash and then come together.
The Big Night
One of our favorite films about two Italian brothers who come to the U.S. and open a restaurant. Their high cuisine isn't understood by the typical American patrons who wonder why the spaghetti doesn't come with meatballs on top. So they hatch a plan to have a big opening night with celebrities while offering one of their most special recipes. Tony Shalhoub, Stanley Tucci, Minnie Driver, Ian Holm and Isabella Rossellini are a wonderful cast for this Italian classic.
One Hundred Steps (subtitles)
Peppino Impastato was a quick-witted boy growing up in a Sicilian village in the late 1960s. He lives in a family with Mafia connections, one hundred steps away from the house of Tano Badalamenti, the Mafia boss. As he becomes of age, Peppino denounces the whole Mafia system by using a small local radio station to broadcast his political pronouncements in the form of ironic humor. A battle of right versus might and La Famiglia against family.
Lost in Florence
What seems like just a romantic film is actually a great vehicle to watch a spectacular, historic sport--Calcio Fiorentino in action. The main character is an American ex-football player who joins a team playing an archaic form of soccer native to Florence since the sixteenth century. If you like sports, you'll love this film.
Rome (Series, 2-seasons, in English, very adult content)
This has to be one of the most compelling docudrama series since I Claudius. It's amazingly historic in detail and in the pagan culture in Rome 2000 years ago. This is a must-watch for anyone who loves the history of Italy and Ancient Rome. Binge-watching this one might take more than a week.
Cinema Paradiso (rental, subtitles)
The story follows a film director's coming of age in a small Italian town. His best friend is the aging film projectionist in the local Cinema Paradiso who helps him learn about love, compassion, jealousy, patriotism and family. This has to be one of the best Italian films ever made.
Seven Beauties (rental, subtitles)
One of Italian filmmaker, Lina Wertmeuller's best. Giancarlo Gianini stars as a petty thief living off his seven unattractive sisters. He deserts the army during World War II and is then captured by the Germans and sent to a prison camp, where he does anything to survive. Through flashbacks, we learn about his accidental murder of one sister's lover, his imprisonment in an insane asylum, and his volunteering to be a soldier to escape confinement. Although this film shows the horrors of living in war-torn Italy, it is has some of the funniest scenes ever. Any Italiophile must see this film.
Letters to Juliet
A light rom-com, this film follows young romantic Sophia (Amanda Seyfried) as she hunts for the author of a letter placed behind a stone in Juliet's House's wall in Verona many years earlier. She convinces the much older Claire to go on a quest with her to find the love of her life, while she looks for a love of her own. It's a fluffy film, but with the Vita Bella that we all look for in a film made in Italy.
Under the Tuscan Sun
This film Single-handedly made the hilltowns of Tuscany more crowded that they need to be with divorced American women trying to emulate the author's lifestyle. Still, it's a pleasant romp through Tuscany, Rome and the Amalfi Coast as the main character tries to find herself while renovating her run down Tuscan villa. Diane Lane and the ever-appealing Lindsay Duncan star.
This film stars Marissa Tomei, Robert Downy Jr and Bonnie Hunt. Tomei's character thinks she is destined to find her soulmate after having first a ouija board and years later, a physic tell her the name of Mr. Right. Tomei and Hunt travel to Italy in search of this perfect man, only to discover real love. It's our favorite because of the scene at La Bocca della Verita where Tomei and Downey recreate the famous scene from Roman Holiday.
The ultimate 1953 Rom-Com, Audrey Hepburn stars as a royal princess out to see Rome on her own with Gregory Peck guiding her as he hides the fact that he's a reporter trying to get her story. Hepburn won an Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance, but the real star for us is the scene at La bocca della Verita. This film also shows how few tourists were in Rome in the 1950s with many scenes shot at famous Rome locations.
There you have it. A lit of films that should keep you occupied and in good spirits during your own lock-down. So, turn off the news for a while. Gather a loved one close--but not too close--and enjoy these great films.
Andrà tutto bene...
--Jerry Finzi, GVI
Perhaps it's a cultural thing. At the end of long days, most Italians stroll down to the main piazzi in towns and villages to mingle with their neighbors and families in the evening ritual of passeggiata. When meeting, embraces and kisses on cheeks are exchanged. Even while ignoring stop lights and signs, somehow Italians weave their way past the crush of neighboring vehicles, obeying an unspoken rule of letting each other go ahead without touching vehicles. It's a magical dance--a balance of self-confidence, ego, trust and respect.
This is what astounds me about Italians. Their acceptance of time, love, tragedy, happiness, sadness, la famiglia and things outside their control. They will protest in hopes of change when pushed too far, but they also accept fate and try to do their best in bad situations. Floods, earthquakes, wars, financial crises, extreme heat... they make do with what they have and move on. And for now, their entire country is on lock-down. They accept having to stay at home--only heaven knows for how long.
As a show of spirit and solidarity during the novel coronavirus crisis, Italians have turned to making music and song in their neighborhoods. They are serenading each other not on the piazza, but from their balconies and windows...
Some neighborhoods sing Il Canto degli Italiani, their national anthem, while others sing Volare or Italian pop songs from the sixties. In the south, the tarantella or pizzica music is played with an accordions being played from neighboring balconies and the temp being kept by women beating the tamborello (frame drum with cymbols) or simply banging pot lids together or clapping to make some noise.
One Italian expression says,
"Fosse non possiamo avere tutto, ma noi insieme siamo tutto."
(Perhaps we cannot have everything, but together we are everything.)
I hope we Americans can take on this philosophy as we get deeper into our own cornonavirus crisis.
Here in Bucks County, we just got the word that our entire county is on lock down. For now, Lisa, Lucas and I are safe, we have a well packed pantry, a month's supply of toilet paper and lots of recipes to try and streaming films to watch. Lisa's company ordered everyone to work from home a few days ago and Lucas is home due to a state wide school closure.
When I get a chance, I'll sit on my front porch with my mandolin, Irish whistle or banjo and make some music...
Stay safe and healthy, amici miei.
This short, 20 minute video will explain the basics of the Roman Empire, from it's beginnings to its fall. Very concise, informative and with enough information to inspire you to learn even more about the Ancient Romans. I can't recommend it enough. Pour an espresso, relax and open your mind...
Click Below to Watch the Video...
I first discovered Nonna Paola while surfing through videos on my smart TV's YouTube app. Immediately, I called over my wife and son and we lost ourselves in laughter for the next hour or more as we played video after video.
This diminutive Calabrian nonna puts up with the provocations, jabs and teasing of her Australian comedian son, Greg, as he records videos of her reactions to the the world around her: telemarketers, smart phones, "sooshi" ("Do I eat-a the paper?"), politics, and priests. In one episode she asks her son to play Metallica in the car. In another, she explains how she bottles and labels her own holy water. One of my all-time favorites is when her son catches her drying chili peppers in the washing machine's spin cycle!
The mix of a loving, prodding son and a thick-accented energetic Nonna is hysterical. The videos has made Nonna Paola a YouTube sensation, with nearly 24,000 subscribers with some of her videos reaching over half a million views!
In many ways (especially in stature) she reminds me of my maternal Grandmother: the way I would always tease her about her "boyfriend", the Pope; trying to put a helmet on her and telling her "today is the day" I was taking her for a ride on my motorcycle; and I perpetually blamed her tomato sauce (overloaded with onions and peppers) as the reason my appendix almost killed me when I was 12 years old.
Their videos are addictive, but I'm trying to pace myself for when I really need to take my mind off of everyday problems of life. When I need it, I'll load up their video channel on Youtube and laugh at the way Nonna fights back at her son by calling him "Dick-a-head", soothing my soul with laughter...
A few of my Nonna Paola favorites...