THE CINEMA OF INTELLIGENCE: A CENTENARY RETROSPECTIVE OF THE FILMS OF ROBERTO ROSSELLINI Rating: NNNNN Rating: NNNNN
We typecast directors as quickly as we typecast actors. There are still people who think of Roberto Rossellini as a founding father of neo-realism, but that description falls far short of such a protean director.
To identify him with the full-blown wartime melodrama of Rome Open City (November 3, 6:30 pm) is to completely miss the oblique Modernist fragments of Paisan (November 6, 8:15 pm), also neo-realist, but of a completely different stripe.
Like the French New Wave, Italian neo-realism covers a lot of ground. What separates different genre films like The Bicycle Thief, Paisan and La Terra Trema often now seems more important than what at the time seemed to unite them - namely, the plein-air shooting style, the use of non-professional actors, the apparent fondness for the realistic, which is a trickier term than most people acknowledged at the time.
You can call Rossellini a realist filmmaker and be broadly correct, but that covers a lot of ground, and a lot of different things. His films accommodate the emotional volcano that is Anna Magnani, but are baffled by the star presence of Ingrid Bergman, who fell in love with his films before she met the filmmaker. Their six films together are the response of a director confronted by an iceberg star.
Magnani in Rome Open City or The Miracle (November 18, 6:30 pm) is a force of nature. The intensely reserved Bergman was at the cusp of her career (35 was the end of the line for romantic leads in 50s America) and gambled everything on working with a new kind of filmmaker. No Hollywood movie star had ever done what Bergman did when she left for Italy to work with Rossellini. The three best-known of their projects play this weekend: Stromboli (Friday, October 27, 6:30 pm), Europa '51 (Saturday, October 28, 6:30 pm) and Voyage In Italy (Sunday, October 29, 1 pm).
The most interesting and least seen in North America of Rossellini's films are the historical docudramas he made for European TV in the 60s and early 70s, by which point he had lost his North American audience.
Austere and elliptical, films like Acts Of The Apostles (November 26, 1 pm), The Age Of The Medici (December 3, 1 pm - all four and a half hours of it) and The Rise To Power Of Louis XIV (December 4, 6:30 pm) are the climax of his long journey from the shaky tripod on the streets of Rome in Rome Open City. (To December 9 at Cinematheque)