Paisan (Rossellini, 1946)

The six short stories which make up Roberto Rossellini’s Paisan share one pressing motif. Each consists of a momentary friendship born from the circumstances and consequences of war, specifically the Allied invasion of Sicily and Italy in 1942. These stories range from personal (the boy and the American soldier) to the epic (the final sequence of execution) and their impact is varied as well. Rossellini’s a director of such calculation, at least in the few films I’ve seen by him, that his stories scream for more attention than they are actually given. Paisan seems the perfect exemplification of Rossellini’s attention to human interaction (best seen in the segment with the monks and Army Chaplains). These short stories roll together through the use of voice-over narration as connective tissue, also using a cut away of a map charting the Allied advance into the different sections of the region. Rossellini’s mastery of situations between people in conflict, both physically, mentally and spiritually, is something to respect and herald, but Paisan doesn’t feel whole as a film. Maybe that’s Rossellini’s point, to show the meandering and wide reaching devastation of war on all fronts, but Paisan is a film I respect more than I actually enjoyed. A definite neo-realism masterwork, just not my cup of tea at the moment.


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