Director: Roberto Rossellini
Production: Organization Films International in collaboration with Foreign Films Productions, some sources also credit Capitani Films; black and white, 35mm; running time: 117 minutes, originally 124 minutes; length: 4195 feet. Released 1946.
Producers: Roberto Rossellini, Rod E. Geiger, and Mario Conti; production supervisor: Ugo Lombardi; story: Victor Haines, Marcello Pagiero, Sergio Amidei, Federico Fellini, Roberto Rossellini, Klaus Mann (Florence episode), and Vasco Pratolini; screenplay: Sergio Amidei, Federico Fellini, and Roberto Rossellini; English dialogue: Annelena Limentani; English subtitles: Herman G. Weinberg; assistant directors: Federico Fellini, Massimo Mida, E. Handimar, and L. Limentani; photography: Otello Martelli; editor: Eraldo da Roma; sound: Ovidia del Grande; music: Renzo Rossellini; English narrators: Stuart Legg and Raymond Spottiswoode.
Cast: Carmela Sazio ( Carmela ); Robert Van Loon ( Joe from Jersey ); Alfonsino Pasca ( Boy ); Maria Michi ( Francesca ); Renzo Avanzo ( Massimo ); Harriet White ( Harriet ); Dots M. Johnson ( MP ); Bill Tubbs ( Captain Bill Martin ); Benjamin Emmanuel; Raymond Campbell; Albert Heinz; Harold Wagner; Merlin Berth; Leonard Parrish; Dale Edmonds ( Dale ); Carlo Piscane ( Peasant in Sicily story ); Mats Carlson ( Soldier in Sicily story ); Gar Moore ( Fred ); Gigi Gori ( Partisan ); Cigolani ( Cigolani ); Lorena Berg ( Maddalena ); Allen Dan; M. Hugo; Anthony La Penna.
Venice Film Festival, Special Mention, 1946; New York Film Critics Award,
Best Foreign Film, 1948.
Rossellini, Roberto, and others, Paisan , in The War Trilogy: Open City , Paisan , Germany—Year Zero , edited by Stefano Roncoroni, New York, 1973; also included in Rosselliniana: Bibliografia internazionale , dossier "Paisà " by Adriano Apra, Rome, 1987.
Hovald, Patrice, Roberto Rossellini , Paris, 1958.
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Verdone, Mario, Roberto Rossellini , Paris, 1963.
Guarner, Jose Luis, Roberto Rossellini , New York, 1970
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Bazin, André, What Is Cinema? , vol. 2, Berkely, 1971.
Leprohon, Pierre, The Italian Cinema , New York, 1972.
Baldelli, Pio, Roberto Rossellini , Rome, 1972.
Klinowski, Jacek, and Adam Garbicz, editors, Cinema, The Magic Vehicle: A Guide to Its Achievement: Journey 1: The Cinema through 1949 , Metuchen, New Jersey, 1975.
Rondolino, Gianni, Roberto Rossellini , Florence, 1974.
MacBean, James Roy, Film and Revolution , Bloomington, Indiana, 1975.
Overby, David, editor, Springtime in Italy: A Reader on Neo-Realism , Hamden, Connecticut, 1978.
Ranvaud, Don, Roberto Rossellini , London, 1981.
Bondanella, Peter, Italian Cinema: From Neorealism to the Present , New York, 1983.
Rossellini, Roberto. Le Cinéma Révélé , edited by Alain Bergala, Paris, 1984.
Hillier, Jim, editor, Cahiers du Cinéma 1: The 1950s: Neo-Realism, Hollywood, New Wave , London, 1985.
Serceau, Michel, Roberto Rossellini , Paris, 1986.
Brunette, Peter, Roberto Rossellini , Oxford, 1987, 1996.
Gansera, Rainer, and others, Roberto Rossellini , Munich, 1987.
Rossellini, Roberto, Il mio metodo: Scritti e intervisti , edited by Adriano Apra, Venice, 1987.
Rossi, Patrizio, Roberto Rossellini: A Guide to References and Resources , Boston, 1988.
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Rossellini, Roberto, My Method: Writings and Interviews , New York, 1995.
Gallagher, Tag, The Adventures of Roberto Rossellini , Cambridge, 1998.
Barty King, Hugh, "Seven Americans," in Sight and Sound (London), Autumn 1946.
Anderson, Lindsay, in Sequence (London), Winter 1947.
Crowther, Bosley, in New York Times , 30 March 1948.
Warshow, Robert, in Partisan Review (New Brunswick, New Jersey), July 1948.
Variety (New York), 2 November 1948.
Ordway, Peter, "Prophet with Honor: Roberto Rossellini," in Theatre Arts (New York), January 1949.
Manvell, Roger, " Paisan: How It Struck Our Contemporaries," in Penguin Film Review (London), May 1949.
Koval, Francis, "Interview with Roberto Rossellini," in Sight and Sound (London), February 1951.
Pacifici, Sergio J., "Notes on a Definition of Neorealism," in Yale French Studies (New Haven), Summer 1956.
Rhode, Eric, "Why Neorealism Failed," in Sight and Sound (London), Winter 1960–61.
"The Achievement of Roberto Rossellini," in Film Comment (New York), Fall 1964.
Johnson, Ian, in Films and Filming (London), February 1966.
Helman, A., "Roberto Rossellini albo synteza antynomjii: Nasz Iluzjon," in Kino (Warsaw), October 1973.
Lawton, B., "Italian Neorealism: A Mirror Construction Reality," in Film Criticism (Edinboro, Pennsylvania), no. 2, 1979.
Prédal, René, "Roberto Rossellini, 1906–1977," in Avant-Scéne du Cinéma (Paris), 15 February 1979.
Pym, John, in Monthly Film Bulletin (London), November 1980.
Brunette, Peter,"Unity and Difference in Paisan ," in Studies in Literary Imagination , vol. 16, no. 1, 1983.
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* * *
Roberto Rossellini's Paisà , along with his Roma, città aperta (1945), introduced post-war American audiences to Italian neorealism, which proved to be the first wave in a series of European influences that altered the shape of American cinema. Neo-realism, a movement that emerged from the shattered Italian film industry immediately after World War II, concerned itself with an almost documentary-like depiction of the hardship and suffering of the Italian people during and after World War II. Directors like Rossellini, Vittorio De Sica, and Luchino Visconti took to the streets in order to make their films. In the process they articulated an aesthetic of cinematic realism that called for the use of non-professional actors, on-location shooting, the abandonment of slick "Hollywood" production values, and a self-conscious rejection of commercial considerations. What emerged was a fresh and energetic film style which largely rejuvenated the pre-war stagnation of the Italian cinema. Years later Rossellini wrote that he used this new approach to attempt to understand the events of the fascist years, which had overwhelmed him personally and the Italian people generally. He chose the particular film style he did for its morally neutral approach; he simply wanted to observe reality objectively and to explore the facts that implicated his country in the fascist horror of the war. He also wanted to create a balance sheet on the experience so that Italians could begin to live life on new terms.
Paisà contains six episodes that trace the American invasion of Italy from the Allied landing in Sicily in 1934 until the Italian surrender in the spring of 1944. Rossellini does not present the war in terms of armies, strategies, and grand plans but rather as a tragedy involving the death and the suffering of human beings caught in the crush of forces beyond their control. Although some of the critics, among them Robert Warshow, found the film too sentimental in places, Paisà received good reviews outside of Italy, and it has retained its place as one of the classics of neo-realism, especially in the United States.
Neo-realism and Rossellini's remarks concerning Paisà raise some interesting questions about the mimetic nature of film and about the significance of a point of view of doctrine in shaping the final cinematic product. Paisà is neither a doctrinaire film nor, as Rossellini would have it, a neutral one. The film is not a long documentary, as some critics have rather simple-mindedly suggested, nor is it a film guided by a manifesto. It is a film which provides a new beginning, to borrow Rossellini's balance sheet metaphor, and does so by stripping film of the appurtenances of the pre-war studio world. Rossellini was striving for a basic sincerity in his films, and it was primarily toward that end that he made Paisà with a truthful simplicity which is so effective.
—Charles L. P. Silet