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Roberto Rossellini's War Trilogy

Roma, città aperta (1945) aka Rome, Open City        Paisà (1946) aka Paisan

Deutschland im Jahre Null (1948) aka Germany Year Zero

 

 

Roberto Rossellini is one of the most influential filmmakers of all time. And it was with his trilogy of films made during and after World War II—Rome Open City, Paisan, and Germany Year Zero—that he left his first transformative mark on cinema. With their stripped-down aesthetic, largely nonprofessional casts, and unorthodox approaches to storytelling, these intensely emotional works were international sensations and came to define the neorealist movement. Shot in battle-ravaged Italy and Germany, these three films are some of our most lasting, humane documents of devastated postwar Europe, containing universal images of both tragedy and hope.

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DVD Review:

Criterion - Rossellini's War Trilogy - Region 1 - NTSC

 

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Distribution Criterion Collection - Spine # 500 (individually #497-#499)
Region 1 - NTSC 
Runtime Respectively: 1:42:56 + 2:05:52 + 1:12:57
Bitrate:

 Rome Open City

Bitrate:

Paisan

Bitrate:

Germany Year Zero

Video

1.33:1 Aspect Ratio

Average Bitrate: 5.37 / 5.71 / 5.81 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

Audio Italian/German/French/English (Dolby Digital 1.0) 
Subtitles English, none

Features

Release Information:
Studio: Criterion

 

Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1 - pictureboxed

Edition Details:
• Video introductions by Roberto Rossellini to all three films, from 1963
• New video interviews with Rossellini scholar Adriano Aprà, film critic and Rossellini friend Father Virgilio Fantuzzi, and filmmakers Paolo and Vittorio Taviani
• Audio commentary on Rome Open City by film scholar Peter Bondanella
• Once Upon a Time . . . “Rome Open City,” a 2006 documentary on the making of this historic film, featuring rare archival material and footage of Anna Magnani, Federico Fellini, Ingrid Bergman, and many others
• Rossellini and the City, a new visual essay by film scholar Mark Shiel on Rossellini’s use of the urban landscape in the War Trilogy
• Excerpts from rarely seen videotaped discussions Rossellini had in 1970 with faculty and students at Rice University about his craft
• Into the Future, a new visual essay about the War Trilogy by film scholar Tag Gallagher
• Roberto Rossellini, a 2001 documentary by Carlo Lizzani, assistant director on Germany Year Zero, tracing Rossellini’s career through archival footage and interviews with family members and collaborators, with tributes by filmmakers François Truffaut and Martin Scorsese
• Letters from the Front: Carlo Lizzani on “Germany Year Zero,” a podium discussion with Lizzani from the 1987 Tutto Rossellini conference
• Italian credits and prologue for Germany Year Zero
• Roberto and Roswitha, a new illustrated essay by film scholar Thomas Meder on Rossellini’s relationship with his mistress Roswitha Schmidt
• 44-page liner notes booklet featuring essays by James Quandt, Irene Bignardi, Colin MacCabe, and Jonathan Rosenbaum
 
 

DVD Release Date: January 26th, 2010
Three cardboard bookstyle cases inside a cardboard box (see image above)

 

Comments:

Firstly, please excuse the size of this webpage but I feel Criterion's 500th spine number; Roberto Rossellini's War Trilogy is one of their most important releases... ever. There are many previous editions, of 2 of the 3 films of the trilogy, and to fully appreciate the quality level of the Criterion I felt it was paramount to visually compare existing DVD renditions. To quote the Criterion liner notes booklet; "For decades the available versions of these films have been based on later generation elements exhibiting physical wear and tear and printed-in dirt and damage. These defects have often been attributed to the circumstances under which the films were made, especially Rome Open City, for which Rossellini resorted to using scavenged and mismatched film stock.

The disastrous conditions of Paisan's materials has rendered the film virtually unavailable for decades. While Germany Year Zero has never been seen in the United States in this original version, with German opening titles and its complete and correct original-language soundtrack."

It seems obvious that all three films have received extensive digital restoration to meticulously remove individual examples of dirt, debris, stains scratches etc. (to put this in perspective - Paisan alone required more than 500 hours and more than 265,000 individual manual fixes).

Criterion have pictureboxed (see our full description of 'pictureboxing' in our Kind Hearts and Coronets review). NOTE: The Criterion captures below have been put in their own table to indicate the amount of the pictureboxing (indicated by the black border circumventing the edge). Where this may benefit systems that produce overscan (ex. production made cathode ray tubes) - it detracts from systems that do not requite it (ex. HTPC).

The Criterion transfer's far exceed the existing DVDs - easily eclipsing the speckled and greenish tinge of the Image Entertainment editions, and blown out and hazier Kinowelt and Films sans Frontieres releases. For the most part the Criterion transfers are showing more information in the frame and while the image quality is imperfect (some flickering contrast, inherent and irremovable damage, other acceptable inconsistencies) - they may very well be the best these 3 films have looked for over 50 years - certainly the absolute best digital representations of Rossellini's War Trilogy.  

 

Audio is mono, and unremarkable - mastered at 24-bit from the corresponding 35mm optical tracks. Like the image there has been digital restoration of the source including removal of clicks, hiss and pops. As well as looking the best I have ever seen all 3 films (correction - this is the 1st time I have seen Paisan) - this is also the best they have sounded - with audio being a week point on all previous DVDs. There are optional English subtitles for features and all extras.

 

Regardless of the system you are viewing these on - the video supplements are some of the best I have ever encountered including film scholar Peter Bondanella's excellent commentary on Rome, Open City recorded in 1995. There are video introductions by Roberto Rossellini to all three films, from a 1963 French television series, directed by Jean-Marie Coldefy, entitled Roberto Rossellini Presents. There are less than 5-minutes each but nonetheless highly interesting. There are new video interviews (conducted for Criterion in 2009) with Rossellini scholar Adriano Aprà (all 3 films) - who has devoted much of his career to Rossellini and his films, film critic and Rossellini friend Father Virgilio Fantuzzi, and filmmakers Paolo and Vittorio Taviani (The Night of the Shooting Stars) who saw Paisan when they were adolescents and credit the film, and profound influence of the director, with inspiring their own career path. Once Upon a Time . . . “Rome Open City,” is a 2006, 52-minute documentary by Marie Genin and Serge July divided into 7 chapters. It focuses on the making of this historic film, featuring rare archival material and footage of Anna Magnani, Federico Fellini, Ingrid Bergman, and many others. Rossellini and the City, a new, 25-minute, visual essay by film scholar Mark Shiel, author of Italian Neorealism: Rebuilding the Cinematic City, on Rossellini’s deceptive use of the urban landscape in the War Trilogy. We get 13:34 worth of edited excerpts from rarely seen videotaped discussions Rossellini had in 1970 with faculty and students at Rice University about his craft. Some may find this of particular interest. Into the Future is a new 31-minute visual essay by film scholar Tag Gallagher who analyzes the War Trilogy in the context of Rossellini's body of work and the historical moment in which the films were made. This is essential viewing in my opinion. "Roberto Rossellini", a 2001, 1 hour 5-minute, documentary by Carlo Lizzani, assistant director on Germany Year Zero divided into 7 chapters. It traces Rossellini’s career through archival footage and interviews with family members and collaborators, including Isabella Rossellini, Anna Magnani and tributes by filmmakers François Truffaut and Martin Scorsese. Letters from the Front has Carlo Lizzani (the only Italian hired to work on Germany Year Zero) discussing “Germany Year Zero,” via a podium discussion from the June 1987 at the Tutto Rossellini conference in Pesaro, Italy. He discusses his role as assistant director on the film and also reads excerpts from letters he wrote about the production while on set to his friend Antonello Trombardi, an art critic and influential member of the Italian communist party, who had helped him get the job. Included are the Italian credits and voice-over prologue for Germany Year Zero running 2:50 - as seen in the Italian release of the film. Roberto and Roswitha, a new illustrated essay by film scholar Thomas Meder, author of the book Rossellini's Paisan, on Rossellini’s relationship with his mistress, from 1942-46, Roswitha Schmidt - navigational through arrow buttons on your remote. There is a fabulous 44-page liner notes booklet featuring essays by James Quandt, Irene Bignardi, Colin MacCabe, and Jonathan Rosenbaum. Absolutely magnificent.

 

Had this come out in December 2009 - it would have easily been in my Top 10 of the Year - and I still highly doubt it will be, at all, forgotten when the 2010 poll rolls around. This would be worth the money if it only contained the exhaustive supplements - let alone the 3 masterpiece films. This has our highest recommendation as one of Criterion's greatest releases - that alone is an essential endorsement. Congratulations to the Criterion organization for creating this incredible package - their 500th spine number. Wow... can't say much more. 

Gary W. Tooze


(aka 'Roma, città aperta' or 'Open City' or 'Rome, Open City')

directed by Roberto Rossellini
Italy 194
5

This was Roberto Rossellini’s revelation, a harrowing drama about the Nazi occupation of Rome and the brave few who struggled against it. Though told with more melodramatic flair than the other films that would form this trilogy and starring some well-known actors—Aldo Fabrizi as a priest helping the partisan cause and Anna Magnani in her breakthrough role as the fiancée of a resistance member—Rome Open City (Roma città aperta) is a shockingly authentic experience, conceived and directed amid the ruin of World War II, with immediacy in every frame. Marking a watershed moment in Italian cinema, this galvanic work garnered awards around the globe and left the beginnings of a new film movement in its wake.

Theatrical Release: September 27th, 1945 - Italy

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Screen Captures

1) Image Entertainment - Region 0 - NTSC - TOP

2) Kinowelt - Region 2 - PAL - SECOND

3) Films sans Frontieres - Region 2 - PAL - THIRD

4) Criterion (Rossellini's War Trilogy Boxset) - Region 1 - NTSC - BOTTOM

 


1) Image Entertainment - Region 0 - NTSC - TOP

2) Kinowelt - Region 2 - PAL - SECOND

3) Films sans Frontieres - Region 2 - PAL - THIRD

4) Criterion (Rossellini's War Trilogy Boxset) - Region 1 - NTSC - BOTTOM


1) Image Entertainment - Region 0 - NTSC - TOP

2) Kinowelt - Region 2 - PAL - SECOND

3) Films sans Frontieres - Region 2 - PAL - THIRD

4) Criterion (Rossellini's War Trilogy Boxset) - Region 1 - NTSC - BOTTOM


1) Image Entertainment - Region 0 - NTSC - TOP

2) Kinowelt - Region 2 - PAL - SECOND

3) Films sans Frontieres - Region 2 - PAL - THIRD

4) Criterion (Rossellini's War Trilogy Boxset) - Region 1- NTSC - BOTTOM

 

 

More captures from the Criterion (Rossellini's War Trilogy Boxset) - Region 1- NTSC

 


 

 

(aka "Paisà' or 'Paisan')

directed by Roberto Rossellini
Italy 194
6

Roberto Rossellini’s follow-up to his breakout Rome Open City was the ambitious, enormously moving Paisan (Paisà), which consists of six episodes set during the liberation of Italy at the end of World War II, and taking place across the country, from Sicily to the northern Po Valley. With its documentary-like visuals and its intermingled cast of actors and nonprofessionals, Italians and their American liberators, this look at the struggles of different cultures to communicate and of people to live their everyday lives in extreme circumstances is equal parts charming sentiment and vivid reality. A long-missing treasure of Italian cinema, Paisan is available here for the first time in its full original release version.

Release Date: December 10th, 1946

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(aka 'Deutschland im Jahre Null' or 'Germania anno zero' or 'Germany Year Zero")

directed by Roberto Rossellini
Italy 194
8

The concluding chapter of Roberto Rossellini’s War Trilogy is the most devastating, a portrait of an obliterated Berlin, seen through the eyes of a twelve-year-old boy. Living in a bombed-out apartment building with his sick father and two older siblings, young Edmund is mostly left to wander unsupervised, getting ensnared in the black-market schemes of a group of teenagers and coming under the nefarious influence of a Nazi-sympathizing ex-teacher. Germany Year Zero (Deutschland im Jahre Null) is a daring, gut-wrenching look at the consequences of fascism, for society and the individual.

Theatrical Release: December 1st, 1948 - Italy

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Screen Captures

 

1) Image Entertainment - Region 1 - NTSC - TOP

2) Films sans Frontieres - Region 0 - PAL - MIDDLE

3) Criterion (Rossellini's War Trilogy Boxset) - Region 1 - NTSC - BOTTOM

 


 


 

Screen Captures

 

1) Image Entertainment - Region 1 - NTSC - TOP

2) Films sans Frontieres - Region 0 - PAL - MIDDLE

3) Criterion (Rossellini's War Trilogy Boxset) - Region 1 - NTSC - BOTTOM

 


 


1) Image Entertainment - Region 1 - NTSC - TOP

2) Films sans Frontieres - Region 0 - PAL - MIDDLE

3) Criterion (Rossellini's War Trilogy Boxset) - Region 1 - NTSC - BOTTOM

 

 


1) Image Entertainment - Region 1 - NTSC - TOP

2) Films sans Frontieres - Region 0 - PAL - MIDDLE

3) Criterion (Rossellini's War Trilogy Boxset) - Region 1 - NTSC - BOTTOM

 

 


 

1) Image Entertainment - Region 1 - NTSC - TOP

2) Films sans Frontieres - Region 0 - PAL - MIDDLE

3) Criterion (Rossellini's War Trilogy Boxset) - Region 1 - NTSC - BOTTOM

 

 

 

 

More captures from the Criterion (Rossellini's War Trilogy Boxset) - Region 1- NTSC

 

 

 

 


 


DVD Box Covers

 

CLICK to order from:

Distribution Criterion Collection - Spine # 500 (individually #497-#499)
Region 1 - NTSC 

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Gary Tooze

Hiros