Enmeshed with the Italian Campaign during the liberation of Italy between 1943-1944, six distinct but unconnected episodes unfold. Starting off from Sicily, a local girl, Carmela, guides a band of American soldiers through a minefield with devastating results, while in Naples, Pasquale, the orphaned child of war, after stealing the boots of an inebriated African-American G.I., is followed back to his war-battered town. Then, in liberated Rome, the impoverished young prostitute, Francesca, waits for the American soldier who fell in love with six months before, and in Florence, during a battle across Ponte Vecchio, Harriet, a US wartime nurse, risks her life to reunite with her lover. Next, three army chaplains spend the night at a Roman Catholic monastery, however, only one of them is a Catholic. Finally, on the banks of Po River, American OSS officers and Italian Partisans fight the Nazis, after saving two downed English pilots.Written by
According to his son, Anthony La Penna does not appear in this film. He was contracted and paid but his scenes were shot with another actor. He later did work with Roberto Rossellini on JOURNEY TO ITALY but he does not appear in PAISAN. See more »
During night a GI lights up his lighter while following the rocky path through the lava canal. A flashlight might have been used in order to help increase the effect of the lighter being lit. When the soldier closes the lighter, the spot projected by the flashlight remains on for a fraction of a second, which is enough to observe the synchronization issue. See more »
Originally premiered at the Venice Film Festival on September 8, 1946 in a longer cut (running 134 minutes). Later cut to 125 minutes. The 134 min. cut has been restored from material found at the Bundesarchiv-Filmarchiv in Berlin, Germany and has premiered at the 55th Venice Film Festival in 1998. See more »
War's "behind-the-scenes"... neorealism to its most historically significant...
"Paisa", Roberto Rosselini's chronicles of the Allies' Italian campaign, is a movie like no movie I saw and like no one has ever seen when it came out in 1946. It is really one of a kind, a masterpiece that stood the test of time and it's no wonder Martin Scorsese put it at the top of his favorite movies.
The film is made of six episodes following not only a chronological but geographical story line. The first episode is set the very day the Allies landed in Sicily, their first one in the European continent, in that crucial summer 1943. Sicily marked the beginning of the end for Nazis but what a nightmarish, thrilling and inspirational journey before getting to that triumphant end.
Each episode of "Paisa" ('buddy' in Italian) is set in a specific city: Rome, Napoli or Florence, but it's less in the setting that in the variety of situations that the experience of war is so unique and groundbreaking. For instance, most war movies involve ordinary battles, bridges or railroads to blow, towns to free, prisoners to handle and so forth, but "Paisa" explores in a deeper way situations we generally take for granted. A film like "Patton" shows us the Allies entering in Sicily, but in "Paisa", we're confronted to the first patrols, meeting defiant villagers with the language gap playing a significant part. The most memorable relationship of this segment involves a GI named Joe, from New Jersey and local Carmela, a Sicilian girl who reluctantly guided his patrol to an unoccupied castle through a mine-free way.
The first shades of genius start to show through the communications struggles between two persons who couldn't have been more opposite, yet are united by similar desires: she wants to see her parents, he wants to go home, and when he finally finds a way to communicate, and just when you think we're about to have a love-at-first sight moment, something happens that shows you how war has never been much of a plot-maker, and one way leading to another, after five minutes, with the closing of the first chapter, we're haunted by the story's poignant irony, and we're looking forward to witness similarly humanistic tales. Naturally, they are not of the same emotional resonance, as there's no specific pattern guiding the stories, but all through the film, our hearts swing between contradictory emotions: warmth, humor, anger, sadness and shocks through the outburst of violence, reminding us there's a war, after all.
The second and third chapters are the first to feature non-life threatening situations, one deals with the unlikely relationship between Joe, an African-American soldier, and a little street scamp who reminded me of the 'Shoeshine" kids (actually, the story has something to do with shoes) but it's so unlike the first one that we're a bit puzzled before getting the emotional implications of its ending. The third chapter is interesting too in the way it takes place in the aftermath of liberated towns, and plays like an ironic twist on the typical images of pretty girls kissing their liberators. Indeed, the disillusion caused by war ends up affecting 'innocent' girls. Of course, when compared to killings or rapes, prostitution strikes as the lesser of two evils, but the story again, defies all the conventional implications of a love story, quickly sacrificed on the altar of war's inner sleaziness.
The following episodes are more in line with the usual war material, especially the fourth one featuring an American nurse and an Italian resistant running through Florence in the midst of a ferocious battle between Italian partisans, Nazis and their die-hard fascist allies, in a desperate quest to find their loved ones, her lover, a legendary resistant named 'Lupo' and his family. The ending echoes the Sicilian chapter. Finally, the last one is perhaps the grittiest and ugliest, but a necessity when you consider the anti-war statement the film makes: partisans, who are seen in previous chapters are mercilessly shot by the Germans on the basis that they are not covered by the Geneva conventions, their execution is not without protests, nor sanctions to these protests. The film questions the pretensions of civilization, how can civilization orders destruction, killings, how can it destroy human feelings such as life and love.
Which leads me to the most puzzling chapter, where three American chaplains are welcomed to stay in a Roman monastery. It's a place of peace and quietness and for a while, it seems that there is nothing but mutual respect and gratitude between the men, until the monks learn that two chaplains happen to be Jewish and protestant, lost souls as they say. Indeed, at a time where humanity lost its soul, literally, where war has proved to be the anti-thesis of civilization, the monks' reactions is simply perplexing. I don't think there was any anti-religious undertone to it (remember the heroic priest who prayed for an atheist Communist in "Rome, Open City") but more of a way to show how ironically lost, the men who never really got in touch with war, ended up being. This is one of the many ironies, the brilliant, multi-layered and Oscar-nominated screenplay is full of.
And this is to the credit of Roberto Rosselini and the six writers, including Fellini, who made these chapters, to have assembled these slices of Italian and American lives at a time where Italy was trying to restore some of its lost dignity. And a film like "Paisa" is a powerful homage to the souls that were either killed or destroyed by war. On a technical point, some images get a bit blurry, some actors are less professional than others, but it is so obvious that most of the film was shot like a documentary, that these flaws are small prices to pay for such a historical magnitude, this is as far as neo-realism could ever go.
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