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Directed by Roberto Rossellini
Italy / France
1959

 

Roberto Rossellini’s first box-office success after a string of commercial failures, notably with Ingrid Bergman was also a return to the themes of the films which brought him international fame, Rome, Open City and his other neorealist classics.

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In a magnetic performance, Vittorio De Sica is Emanuele Bardone, an opportunistic rascal in wartime Genoa, conning his fellow Italians and exploiting their tragedies by promising to help find their missing loved ones in exchange for money. But when the Nazis force him to impersonate a dead partisan general in prison to extract information from fellow inmates, Bardone finds himself wrestling with his conscience for the first time. Roberto Rossellini’s gripping drama, a rare box-office breakthrough for the legendary neorealist, is further evidence of the compassionate artistry of one of cinema’s most important voices.

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Based on an article by the Italian journalist Indro Montanelli, Rossellini casts Vittorio De Sica as confidence trickster Emanuele Bardone who helps to save Italians arrested by the Gestapo or at least pretending to do so in exchange for money or gifts from their family. When he attempts to save a man already executed he is turned over by the man s wife and is given the choice of execution or carrying out a confidence trick for the Germans; to assume the identity of the General Della Rovere. Turning on his country to save his skin Bardone enters prison to seek out the identity of the partisan commander, Fabrizio.

***

War time Genoa. Grimaldi (De Sica) is brilliant as a con man running a profitable scam extracting money from people by pretending to be in the Italian army. When the Gestapo catch him, they offer him a deal. He can stay alive if he takes on a mission to infiltrate the Resistance movement by impersonating General Della Rovere, a Resistance leader recently murdered by the Nazis. Without much of a choice, he takes the job, which will transform him from spineless coward into unlikely hero. A lean and impressive drama from Rosselini, with De Sica in irresistible form.

Excerpt from Channel Four located HERE

Posters

Theatrical Release: September 1959 - Venice Film Festival

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Comparison:

Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC vs. Arrow Academy - Region 2 - PAL

Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC LEFT vs. Arrow Academy - Region 2 - PAL RIGHT

DVD Box Cover

   

Distribution Criterion Collection - Spine # 463 - Region 1 - NTSC Arrow Academy - Region 2 - PAL
Runtime 2:12:20  2:13:40 (4% Speed-up from the 2-hour 18-minute Venice Film Festival version)
Video 1.33:1 Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 5.71 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s  
1.33:1 Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 6.5 mb/s
PAL 720x576 25.00 f/s

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate: NTSC

Bitrate: PAL

Audio French / Italian (Dolby Digital 1.0)  French / Italian (Dolby Digital 1.0)
Subtitles English, None English, None
Features

Release Information:
Studio: Criterion

Aspect Ratio:
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1

Edition Details:

• New video interviews with Isabella (13:41), Renzo (9:45), and Ingrid Rossellini (5:48), as well as film scholar Adriano AprÓ (7:45)
• The Choice, a new visual essay by Tag Gallagher, author of The Adventures of Roberto Rossellini (15:12)
• Original theatrical trailer (1:52)
• PLUS: A booklet featuring a new essay by film critic James Monaco and an excerpt from a 2000 interview with Indro Montanelli, the author of the story that inspired the film

DVD Release Date: March 31st, 2009

Transparent Keep case
Chapters: 26

Release Information:
Studio: Arrow Film

Aspect Ratio:
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1

Edition Details:

• Video interviews with Renzo Rossellini  (30:26), and Adriano AprÓ (37:12) - both in Italian with optional English subtitles
• Comprehensive booklet featuring writing by Tag Gallagher (The Adventures of Roberto Rossellini: His Life and Films) and Peter Bondanella (The Films of Roberto Rossellini) as well a contemporary interview with director Roberto Rossellini.

DVD Release Date: July 4th, 2011

Keep case
Chapters: 12

 

Comments:

ADDITION: Arrow Academy - Region 2 - PAL: When we compared the Arrow Blu-ray of Clouzot's Les Diaboliques HERE to the Criterion it showed some moderate-to-significant cropping of the image by UK company. We have the same issue with Rossellini's Il Generale Della Rovere on both side edges of the PAL transferred frame. It is advertised as 'Brand new transfer of the Venice Film Festival version of the film' but I suspect the cropping is due to Arrow's rendering. The other significant difference was the submarine scene after the gritty stock footage of war damage/effects - the PAL version is dramatically weaker (as if still older stock footage - see below). Aside from that the image is quite strong possibly eclipsing the, occasionally, green Criterion in certain instances with solid detail, contrast and showing a small amount of grain.

NOTE: This UK DVD edition is the longer (138 minute - minus 4% PAL speedup = 133-minute) Venice Film Festival version where the Criterion is 132-minute version. Both editions are faithfully reporting a correct standards source.

Like the Criterion the mono audio is clean and clear for most dialogue with a tendency to be drowned out by things like the air-raid sheltered explosions. We presume this is part of the production. There are optional subtitles that differ from the Criterion translation but seem accurate enough to impart the desired meaning.

Extras include over an hour of video interviews with Renzo Rossellini  (30:26), and Adriano AprÓ (37:12) - both in Italian with optional English subtitles as well as a comprehensive booklet featuring writing by Tag Gallagher (The Adventures of Roberto Rossellini: His Life and Films) and Peter Bondanella (The Films of Roberto Rossellini) as well a contemporary interview with Rossellini.

Although we are not fans of cropping, some may consider the UK version to simply be different (longer version, not pictureboxed, different extras etc.) than the Criterion. I think it has value for those differences and Rossellini fans may wish to consider picking it up. Generally speaking, it is an impressive looking presentation of a masterpiece film one I hope makes it to Blu-ray one day.

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ON THE CRITERION DVD: There is a 'limited edition' region 2 PAL - Minerva Italian DVD available HERE but I don't know much about it.  Criterion appears to have pushed the black levels a shade excessively here (or it was in the provided source) and there is some less-bothersome edge enhancement halos visible (ex. around De Sica's hat and coat in the second large capture). It is relatively minor but something, as a reviewer, that I should mention. Despite that it looks quite strong with a higher level of detail than I would have anticipated. The Criterion is once again pictureboxed (see our full description of 'pictureboxing' in our Kind Hearts and Coronets review) with a border circumventing the film frame edges. It is, expectantly, dual-layered, progressive and coded for region 1 in the NTSC standard. I would say, depending on your system the image quality will generally be acceptable to enjoying the film - it's is extremely clean and blemish free.

Audio is consistent in original 1.0 channel mono and offers optional English subtitles as per Criterion standard.   

Supplements offer about 40 minutes of exclusive interviews with Rossellini's children; Isabella, Renzo, and Ingrid as well as film scholar Adriano AprÓ. The Choice, is an excellent, brand new visual essay by Tag Gallagher, and runs about 15 minutes. In it he traces the journey of the story from real life to novel to film as well as Rossellini's evolving attitude toward the history of the German occupation of Italy during WWII. There is also an original theatrical trailer and a 16-page booklet featuring a new essay by film critic James Monaco and an excerpt from a 2000 interview with Indro Montanelli, the author of the story that inspired the film.

I'm so happy that Criterion are delving further into the work of Rossellini. This is a fabulous example of another of his films that I had always wanted to see... but had not had the opportunity.  Tag's visual essay and the interviews are wonderful additions and despite our findings about the image this is certainly recommended! 

Gary W. Tooze

 


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Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC LEFT vs. Arrow Academy - Region 2 - PAL RIGHT

 

 
 

Screen Captures

 

Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC TOP vs. Arrow Academy - Region 2 - PAL BOTTOM

 


Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC TOP vs. Arrow Academy - Region 2 - PAL BOTTOM

 


Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC TOP vs. Arrow Academy - Region 2 - PAL BOTTOM

 


Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC TOP vs. Arrow Academy - Region 2 - PAL BOTTOM

 


Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC TOP vs. Arrow Academy - Region 2 - PAL BOTTOM

 


Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC TOP vs. Arrow Academy - Region 2 - PAL BOTTOM
 

Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC TOP vs. Arrow Academy - Region 2 - PAL BOTTOM
 

Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC TOP vs. Arrow Academy - Region 2 - PAL BOTTOM
 

Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC TOP vs. Arrow Academy - Region 2 - PAL BOTTOM
 


DVD Box Cover

   

Distribution Criterion Collection - Spine # 463 - Region 1 - NTSC Arrow Academy - Region 2 - PAL




 

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