Genoa, 1943. Grimaldi is a swindler, pretending to be a colonel in the Italian army to get money from the family of people put into jail by the Nazis. Once caught, the Gestapo makes a deal with him : he will stay alive if he impersonates the General Della Rovere, a leader of the Resistance who has just been shot by the Nazis, to be put into a political jail where he is supposed to identify another Resistance leader. Written by
Winner of many top international festival prizes, this was one of Roberto Rossellini's most widely seen films in America after OPEN CITY and PAISAN. It is a superbly written, directed, and acted drama about a petty conniver, Bertone, alias Grimaldi, played by Vittorio De Sica in what is possibly his greatest acting role. He is not above loving people and swindling them at the same time. He does this to survive the hard times of Mussolini's Salo' Republic period. The film is set in Genoa after the Badoglio armistice has been signed with the Allies in the south. Bertone tries to help Italians who have relatives imprisoned by the Nazis. Sometimes he can help; other times he cannot but always takes their money. When his game is finally up, he is imprisoned but offered an opportunity by the Germans. He is to impersonate a revered partisan leader already killed by the Nazis in order to furnish them information on another partisan leader in the anti-fascist underground. It is at this point that Bertone gradually undergoes a transformation, choosing patriotism over capitulation. The con-man becomes a hero. Other standout performances here are given by Sandra Milo as a prostitute, Hannes Messemer as the Nazi commandant and Vittorio Caprioli as an inmate barber.
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