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...
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
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.
She answers a phone call from an old friend of her fiance who happens to have that name, and she finds herself in a blinded-by-love chase all the way to Italy to meet him.
With Bonnie Hunt along for the joyride of a lifetime, she meets dreamy Robert Downey Jr's character and starts to fall for him... but pulls away knowing that he's not "the" man foretold as her lifetime love.
You can see where this is going... girl dumps fiance, searches for the perfect boy, meets another boy, dumps that boy, then realizes that she loves the new boy, then the new boy is found out as lying to her, she dumps him again... whew! Trust me, as it's happening, it's really not hard to follow... and neither are the beautiful backdrops of Italy.
The film is cute, funny and well worth a watch, but the scenes in Venice, Florence, San Gimignano and Rome are really worth it. There is even a recreation of the scene at the Bocca della Verita where they mimic the scene from Roman Holiday when Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn tempt fate by putting their hands in his mouth. The strange thing I noticed about this scene is that, unlike in Roman Holiday, it was filmed in front of a plastic prop--not the real Bocca. I can really tell when I look at the details of the Bocca's face, lips and eyes. What a shame. In typical Hollywood fashion, perhaps they shot many of the scenes on a Hollywood stage set... but I assure you, the exterior scenes are shot in the actual Bel Paese.
Have fun with this one. I suggest a bottle or Prosecco, some casual pasta dish that you can eat from bowls while sitting on the couch, your lover by your side and some Baci chocolates for later in the evening...
Click the photo to see this scene
While browsing through Amazon Prime videos for a new (to us) movie to watch, we came upon this gem... Uncle Nino (2009), starring Joe Mantegna and Ann Archer and with a charming performance by Italian actor Pierrino Mascarino as long-lost uncle who stirs up their suburban lives with an unexpected visit. Trevor Morgan plays a rebellious, garage band obsessed son and the daughter is played by Gina Mantegna, Joe Mantegna's daughter in real life. It was the first time acting together for this father-daughter duo.
The story line is pretty basic: Overworked and driven executive husband and father, bored and loving wife and mother, son and father crossing each others' paths and never really connecting, and a daughter being overlooked in the mix. Enter Uncle Nino, the long lost Uncle from Italy who teaches the family about the simple things in life--good wine, gardening, making soulful music, enjoying the pleasures of a family pet, and good food.
In the end, the story is about Famiglia, love, respecting each others' needs, and connecting with our heritage. It's a great wholesome story that I recommend for all Italian-American families with kids.
It's rare that my son Lucas sits through an entire movie at home, but he just loved this one. You definitely enjoy this one. Order a pizza and have some wine when you watch it...