CABARET CINEMA: ROME OPEN CITY (ROMA, CITTÀ APERTA) (Roberto Rossellini, 1945)
Rubin Museum of Art
150 West 17th St. at Seventh Ave.
Friday, January 4, free with $7 bar minimum, 7:00
One of six films to be awarded the Grand Prix at the inaugural Cannes Film Festival in 1946, Roberto Rossellini’s Rome Open City is an antiwar masterpiece, the first of three works that together form his War Trilogy, along with Paisan and Germany Year Zero. Begun in January 1945 with Italy still under German occupation, Rome Open City melds neorealism with melodrama in telling the story of a small, tight-knit community secretly battling the Nazis. The leader of the local Italian resistance is Giorgio Manfredi (Marcello Pagliero), an engineer sending messages and money through courier Don Pietro (Aldo Fabrizi), a priest who is generally left alone by the Nazis and the Italian police. Giorgio hides away in his friend Francesco’s (Francesco Grandjacquet) apartment as Francesco prepares to marry Pina (Anna Magnani), a pregnant widow raising a son, Marcello (Vito Annicchiarico), who is part of a gang of young kids also fighting in the resistance and causing a surprising amount of trouble. Meanwhile, Giorgio’s former flame, cabaret performer Marina Mari (Maria Michi), is cozying up to Ingrid (Giovanna Galletti), a suspicious woman with ties to the Nazis, who are led by the relentless Major Bergmann (Harry Feist). With events coming to a head, faith is questioned, and betrayals set in motion violence, torture, and killings that brutally characterize the many horrors of war. Written by Sergio Amidei and Federico Fellini, Rome Open City is a remarkable example of guerrilla filmmaking, with Rossellini and cinematographer Ubaldo Arata shooting on the streets of Rome using whatever dupe negatives they could get their hands on. The mix of professional and nonprofessional actors lends a stark reality to the proceedings. “Above all, the concept was to give an honest account, to show things as they were,” Rossellini explained in a 1963 intro to the film, a staggering achievement that seems to only get better with age. Rome Open City is screening January 4 at 7:00 as part of the Rubin Museum Cabaret Cinema series “Urban Landscapes,” held in conjunction with the exhibition “Radical Terrain: Modernist Art from India,” and will be introduced by David Bragdon of the city Parks Department. The brief series also includes Alain Resnais’s Last Year at Marienbad and Michelangelo Antonioni’s L’Eclisse and Red Desert later this month.