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Two shoeshine boys in postwar Rome, Italy, save up to buy a horse, but their involvement as dupes in a burglary lands them in juvenile prison where the experience take a devastating toll on their friendship.
Vittorio De Sica
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(Plot spoilers) Although no longer very well known outside of Italy, TO LIVE IN PEACE did have a substantial art house success and critical acclaim at the time of its release in the United States. The film is a tragicomedy about life on a farm at the time of the German occupation of Italy and the effect of wartime events on the small town near it. The farm is owned by Tigna, played by Aldo Fabrizi. All is fairly stable in this secluded heaven. Tigna gets along with everyone: his wife and his extended family, the parish priest, the fascist mayor with who he disagrees but with whom he must camouflage his true feelings about the forces that brought Italy to this sorry pass. Even the local German official, Hans, is a good-natured buddy, sharing wine and meals with Tigna's household. Given his choice, Hans would be home in Germany, farming just like Tigna. One day the the young Silvia and the boy Citto look for a lost piglet in the woods, only to find it being roasted by two American soldiers Ronald and the injured Joe, who is black. They hide him in the animal shed, bring him food and tobacco (much of the humor here derives from the the others who notice food is disappearing). Soon the family accepts the burden of hiding the two stray G.I.s until such time as the war ends. The most important scene of the film occurs when Joe gets drunk in a back room of the house as the German soldier likewise gets tipsy. When the American comes into the room, the two enemy soldiers stare at each other, then break out into convivial laughter. Alcohol is the great leveler. The war no longer exists. Unfortunately reality takes over in the morning. The Germans are retreating but destroying as they go. Both the good German soldier, about to shed his uniform, and his hosting peasant friend Tigna fall victim to events and are both shot by the Germans.
The film has a quality of humanity and in the portrayal of this simple, kind family man and his selfless generosity, suggests the kind of feelings that were the complete antithesis to the horrible backdrop of war and its spewing hatreds.
As Tigna, Roman actor Aldo Fabrizi gives an understated yet utterly moving portrayal of a man incapable of doing evil. We remember him from OPEN CITY as the priest who assists freedom fighters. His feisty worrying wife Corinna is played by the wonderful Ave Ninchi. Gar Moore, who was the G.I. in the Rome episode of Rossellini's PAISAN, is the G.I. here as well. John Kitzmiller, who was later to play in Fellini's VARIETY LIGHTS, does well as G.I. Joe. Two of the screenplay collaborators were Aldo Fabrizi himself and Suso Cecchi d'Amico, who seems to have contributed to the greatest Italian films of all time. Director Luigi Zampa deserves acclaim he received for this film, perhaps his best work. Nino Rota wrote the music. Trivia: TO LIVE IN PEACE replaced OPEN CITY at the World Theatre in New York in 1947 after OPEN CITY had ended its almost two year run.
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