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
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.
When traveling through the Amalfi Coast, we can't help but wonder, "Who lives up there? How do they deal with all those steps? How do you even get up there?" You'll see houses precariously clinging to a cliff edge with no indication of how you even get to the house from the road above--or below--and how you would even get your groceries to your door. Anyone who has done even a little trekking and walking would be familiar with the old donkey paths and countless steps that link these communities, up and down the mountain and from hamlet to village. Consider what it must be like to live a workaday life in towns like Positano, Amalfi Town, or the not so famous towns of Furore, Priano, Nocelle, Montepertuso, San Lazzaro, San Michele or Scala (even its name means staircase). The YouTube videos of Nicki Positano takes a look behind the curtain of what it's like to live as an expat in Italy and on the Amalfi Coast...
Although I've experienced what it's like to be an expat living in another country (France), I've never lived in Italy and am amazed at how people need to adjust to the quirks of not only government and social customs, but also with the extreme geology of the place... hills, heat, narrow roads, tiny cars, compact living quarters and perhaps even dodging the enormous tourist throngs that "invade" during the peak season.
As GVI's mascot, La Bocca della Verita demands, we always look for truths about Italy, and we've found amazing truths in the wonderful, funny, informative and completely entertaining videos of Nicki Positano. Nicki is a British expat who has lived in Positano for nearly 20 years with her husband, Carlo and daughter Sky. Nicki speaks fluent Italian but the local dialect is still an effort for her. They live in a house that is 465 steps down from the road above. Their life is beautiful, difficult at times, but fulfilling nonetheless--like Italy itself.
Watching Nicki's videos and learning the intimate details about life on the Amalfi Coast--and in Italy--has become a family event in our home. We gather around our large screen smart TV, pop open the YouTube app and call up one of Nicki's videos. Our son loves Nicki's ever-present four-legged companion Holly, even riding on the foot board of her scooter as she does her daily errands.
It's like watching both through a window and through Nicki's eyes. She shoots many videos using a selfie-stick while walking along with her rapid-fire dialog flowing, never missing a beat to give a detailed account of the activity at hand. She's a damned good reporter, presenter and videographer.
Her videos include all sorts of activities: hikes up on the mountain, kayaking, meeting up with friends, taking out the trash, attending local festivals, or buzzing around the treacherous Amalfi roads on her two-wheeler while heading to another one of her wedding or magazine assignments (she's a make-up artist in high demand). Whether it's going to the cemetery on Halloween night (oddly beautiful), following the aftermath of a torrential flood or forest fire, going shopping with a friend, hiking the Path of the Gods, chilling at home with her teenage daughter or whipping up a simple lunch, you'll fall in love with Nicki's videos--and learn an enormous amount about living in Italy.
The high quality of her 4K videos (she uses a GoPro for kayaking and skiing, and Canon PowerShot G7 X Mark II for walking) paired with a large screen, HD-TV gives us the feeling like we are walking the paths with Nicki--you can almost smell those Amalfi lemons and bougainvillea.
Thanks for sharing your lifestyle with us, Nicki...
Subscribe to Nicki Positano Videos HERE.
Our expat amico, Rafael Di Furia--better known as Rafi Di--explains how the Italian Healthcare System works for expats and Voyagers alike. It's good to know what to expect when you really need medical care...