Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Forgotten VHS #9- Rosselini's "Paisan"

My introduction to Roberto Rossellini’s Neo-Realist masterwork, Paisan (1946) came in Martin Scorsese’s My Voyage to Italy (1999). Scorsese’s always-infectious passion for cinema is nowhere more evident and intimate than in his detailed analysis of Rosselini’s film, spurring to seek it out. Thankfully, TCM came to the rescue when John Sayles guest programmed it. Paisan is a formally unique film, comprised of six vignettes taking place in six different Italian areas (Sicily, Naples, Rome, Florence, the Appenine Range, and Porte Tolle) in the wake of World War II. The complex moral episodes present the realities of a post-war Italian identity and how this native identity interacts with international influences and how the Italian psyche handles its newfound desperation. Featuring the balanced writing team of Rossellini, Federico Fellini, and Sergio Amidei, among others (Italian team writing!), Paisan is by turns sentimental, violent, hilarious, and heartbreaking.

Being the only Rossellini film I’ve seen, I’m not quite able to place it in his body of work, but going on secondary sources regarding Rosselini’s work, it seems Paisan is an especially haunting film in Rossellini’s canon. One stand-out scene involves a dead partisan begin floated down the Po River with a sign attached to him that marks him as a “traitor.” The scene exemplifies the harsh beauty of Rossellini’s Neo-Realist universe and is the crowning moment of Paisan. Currently, multiple VHS copies of Paisan are available on the Amazon Marketplace for under $8 – a deal if I’ve ever seen one.

by Brandon Colvin


w. said...


Brandon Colvin said...

Criterion needs to whip up a Rosselini box set or something . . . Paisan, Voyage to Italy, The Rise of Louis XIV, Europa '51, Stromboli, etc.

They could use Guy Maddin's "My Father Is 100 Years Old" for a special feature.

That would be awesome.