Children Of Rome, Open City

Children Of Rome, Open City


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

A documentary on the making of Rome, Open City in 1945, during the last days of the Nazi occupation, would have been valuable for historians of cinema, especially those interested in Italy's neorealistic movement that spawned some of the best European films of the last 60 years. A study of its director, Roberto Rossellini, husband of Ingrid Bergman and father of Isabella, would have been equally fascinating. However, this is neither the one thing, nor the other.

If the title is anything to go by, it should have been about the men who played the children in the film, possibly with their memories and stories. What you get are offcuts from Rome, Open City's DVD extras, with Vito Annichiarico, who played the son of Pina (Anna Magnani), returning to the locations and seeing how things have changed - surprisingly little, as it turns out.

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Annichiarico is a charming, polite old gentleman in his seventies. Even when remembering coming to a bar where they listened to Mussolini's speeches on the radio and stood up "out of respect," he is ruminative, rather than passionate. At one moment, completely by chance, he bumps into another old fellow, who was not only in the film, but put an arm round his shoulder, as they walked away, after the priest was executed. He doesn't remember. "I was scrawny," the man says. "You were taller," Annichiarico says. They show the scene from the film and it's true. The taller boy puts his arm round Pina's son's shoulder as they walk away from the fence on the hill where they had watched the execution. It is an emotional moment.

Interspersed with Annichiarico looking, but not finding, are snippets of interviews with all kinds of people, including Magnani's grown up son ("There was a magical aura around her"). They talk of Rossellini, who sounds like an absolute charmer ("He had love affairs with everyone he worked with"), with a great sense of humour. He fought with producers, insisting on doing it his way and broke every rule in town. "Today," a man who looked like he knew what he was talking about says, "he wouldn't be able to work in Italy." Even in television, there are restrictions that he would naturally ignore.

The best part of Laura Muscardin's film is when they are talking about Rome, Open City, the miracle of its making, how the money was found, shooting on location ("unthinkable in those days"), using two comic actors, Magnani and Aldo Fabrizi, as the dramatic leads, begging film stock from American GIs, smuggling the prints over to New York in a soldier's kitbag.

There are insights, moments of fascination even, but as a whole the movie meanders.

This documentary is available as an extra on the DVD release of Rome, Open City.

Reviewed on: 30 Nov 2006
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Children Of Rome, Open City
Documentary on the making of Roberto Rossellini's neorealistic classic Rome, Open City.
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Director: Laura Muscardin

Year: 2004

Runtime: 117 minutes

BBFC: PG - Parental Guidance

Country: Italy


Italian 2006

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Rome, Open City