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
Vittorio de Sica stars as a petty gambler and con artist near the end of the Second World War. His gambling losses are so bad that he has to swindle friends for money; oftentimes he does so with the promise of freeing imprisoned loved ones (and sometimes he even succeeds at doing so). One swindle goes wrong, and the victim informs the Nazis of what De Sica is doing. Instead of simply imprisoning him, they make a deal: if in prison he poses as General della Rovere, who was killed in an escape attempt, and root out a certain partisan leader, they will pay him off and ship him to Switzerland. De Sica is no great man, but he is also no spy. But, initially, he does what the Nazis tell him to do. This film should probably be much better than it is, but it just lacks the passion of Rossellini's earlier films. Sure, they were overly melodramatic, but I don't think the way to fix them is flatten out all the emotions of the film. Rossellini did make a nearly perfect film after his strictly neorealistic period in Stromboli, and General della Rovere, a decade later, is a huge step in the wrong direction. There are a few excellent scenes, but nowhere near enough. It helps that it ends so well. It certainly hinders the project that the whole swindling part of the film lasts for almost half the film, at around an hour. De Sica's character isn't very consistent between the two halves, either. Blame that on the script, though, because De Sica is generally great throughout the entire film. Sandra Milo, who would later co-star in Fellini's 8½ and Juliette of the Spirits, has a small role. 6/10.
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