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No Shame Films presents

Roma citta libera (1945)

"What a stupid night!"- The Young Man (Andrea Checchi)

Stars: Andrea Checchi, Valentina Cortese, Nando Bruno, Vittorio De Sica
Director: Marcello Pagliero

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for adult themes, language
Run Time: 01h:20m:19s
Release Date: 2006-07-25
Genre: drama

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B B-B+C B-


DVD Review

In the neo-realist classic stakes, you have the legendary films like Rome, Open City, Shoeshine, Paisan, The Bicycle Thief and a few others. Then you have the lesser known and forgotten films, of which Marcello Pagliero's Roma citta libera (Rome, Free City) fits in. Thanks to NoShame, this heretofore largely unseen film gets some needed exposure. It's perhaps a bit obvious in some of its intent, but it remains an engaging film, certainly of interest to fans of the movement and Italian cinema. NoShame's presentation does the film justice as well.

The film operates as a slice-of-life piece, beginning in the evening and finishing the next morning, following three main characters as they kill time. The first two meet inadvertantly; a thief (Nando Bruno) prepares to rob a boarding house room but finds instead the occupant (Andrea Checchi) about to commit suicide. The thief stops him, and the young man joins the older one as they head out. Concurrently, a young typist (Valentina Cortese) finds herself threatened with eviction the next day if she doesn't pay up. A friend supplements her own income by prostitution, and the typist sees no other option to prevent homelessness. When the typist nearly gets arrested in a police roundup, the young man saves her by telling the police she is with him. Thus gathered, the three spend the night together, talking, drinking, and getting mixed up with others along the way.

Given the looseness of the plot, the 80-minute runtime feels right, with the pace never feeling too rushed or too slow. With the characters spending the night so aimlessly, the film needs to support that tone, and Pagliero does so. That said, some elements of the plot seem fairly contrived, such as the business with the pearls that the thief steals early on. That the young man's ex-fiancée is tied up with the pearls as well just smacks too much of convenience to swallow.

The three leads are pleasant to watch, with Cortese and Bruno having the better material. Checchi is stuck with a character described by multiple other characters as being a coward and essentially a loser, and he doesn't do much to fight that description. Plus, the final moments between he and the typist come off as somewhat harder to accept given what we've seen of him already. The film does want to argue that relationships are fairly easy things to begin and end, however. Gar Moore appears as an American solider who unsuccessfully tries to get every decent-looking woman he sees to marry him, fitting right into this pattern.

The overall themes are fairly plain, with Vittorio De Sica's amnesiac a fitting symbol of a country that is seeking to remember what it was before the war. The three main characters are simply trying to survive, pragmatic and doing whatever is necessary to survive, although Checchi's young man is ready to end it before being given the push to struggle on. In one sense the film is about endurance, working continually against whatever odds are stacked against you, until you either hit the jackpot or lose it all. For the main characters, the pearls, mistaken for worthless fakes, serve as cruelly funny reminder to the audience that fortune can be in one's hands, but failing to recognize it can be easy.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The packaging notes that the transfer was done from the original negative, and it generally looks excellent, with only occasional dirt and such popping up. I was expecting something more beat up, but I was quite impressed with this. One odd note is the presence of occasional fades to black, usually between scenes, but occasionally between shots in a scene. These are fairly abrupt, and I presume the nature of the editing, but they may be offputting at first.

Image Transfer Grade: B+

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: The original Italian mono track is a little bit hissy, but not unpleasantly so for the most part. Nino Rota contributed the score, but it isn't one of his finest.

Audio Transfer Grade:

Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Scene Access with 12 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
1 Documentaries
1 Featurette(s)
Packaging: clear plastic keepcase
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Booklet with essays
Extras Review: Two main on-disc extras of note, with the first an interview with screenwriter and assistant director Luigi Filippo D'Amico (23m:03s). D'Amico discusses the film and his career, at one point mentioning that he thinks the film is awful. The interview is letterboxed 4:3. The other featurette is Unearthed, an interview with film historian Oreste De Fornari (06m:56s). He describes the film's neo-realist qualities and assesses it as less than a classic. It is also letterboxed 4:3. The film's original trailer wraps up the extras. The package includes a brief booklet with liner notes and De Sica and Rota bios written by Video Watchdog writer Richard Harland Smith.

Extras Grade: B-

Final Comments

Not a landmark, but an enjoyable film that doesn't overstay its welcome, Roma citta libera gives us a heretofore forgotten slice of neorealism that goes down easily. NoShame's DVD is a quality presentation of the film.

Jeff Wilson 2006-07-27