(Roma, città aperta)
Film historian Russell Merritt has been introducing films, lecturing, and serving as an occasional guest curator at BAMPFA for more than thirty years.
Anna Magnani, Aldo Fabrizi, Marcello Pagliero, Maria Michi,
A wartime bread-riot at a Roman bakery: Pina (Anna Magnani) stoops to pick up a loaf. “You?” a man asks. “Should I starve?” she asks. Then she gives him the bread; he shouldn’t starve either. The raw courage, and raw terror, of individuals caught up in the implicit violence of everyday life under fascism is made explicit in Open City, one of several films Fellini cowrote with director Roberto Rossellini. Pina is the pregnant lover of a resistance worker, Francesco; the priest who is to marry Pina and Francesco “tomorrow,” Don Pietro, runs errands for the underground. In the film that put neorealism on the map, Magnani’s portrait—proud, plebeian, sardonic—struck a chord around the world, as if a human being had never been captured on film before. Indeed, Rossellini seems to have removed the “screen”; our heroes don’t even get close-ups for their death scenes. But in Aldo Fabrizi’s Don Pietro, and the little boys who whistle a resistance song to comfort him as he awaits a firing squad, the film has a redemptive power that is overwhelming.