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Paisan
SPECIFICATIONS
  • 1.37:1 Standard
  • Italian PCM Mono
  • English subtitles
  • 1 Disc
FEATURES
  • Video introduction by Roberto Rossellini from 1963
  • New video interview with Rossellini scholar Adriano Aprŗ
  • Excerpts from rarely seen videotaped discussions Roberto 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

Paisan

Blu-ray
Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: Roberto Rossellini
1946 | 120 Minutes | Licensor: Cinecitta

Release Information
Blu-ray | MSRP: $0.00 | Series: The Criterion Collection | Edition: #498
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Release Date: July 11, 2017
Review Date: July 18, 2017

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SYNOPSIS

Roberto Rosselliniís follow-up to his breakout Rome Open City was the ambitious, enormously moving Paisan (Paisa), 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 in its full original release version.


PICTURE

The Criterion Collection upgrades their DVD box set of Roberto Rosselliniís War Trilogy to Blu-ray. The second film in the set, Paisan, is presented on a dual-layer Blu-ray disc in the aspect ratio of 1.37:1, encoded at 1080p/24hz.

Iím a bit confused about the restoration itself: Criterionís booklet mentions this is a 2K restoration taken from 35mm fine-grain master positive while the notes that precede the film on the disc state itís a 4K restoration taken from 35mm nitrate ďof the period.Ē Iím not sure whether the end results would differ that much (the images would have to be downscaled to 1920x1080) but either way Iím still rather impressed with the end results, even if the overall image is weaker than what we get for the first film, Rome Open City.

The original DVD showed a film in very rough condition and looking at that disc now its compression seems to exasperate the problems. It doesnít look particularly good but I think a straight high-definition upgrade would have alleviated things. Thankfully, with the film getting an all new restoration, the improvements are quite significant, even if problems remain. The image here certainly looks far more filmic in comparison to that old DVD, and it delivers the details it can (there are times where the picture can look a little soft or out-of-focus) while also rendering grain rather well. I also found contrast quite good, with nice looking black levels and found the tonal shifts in the gray levels excellent and natural.

As well, the restoration has cleaned up a significant amount of damage that was present on the DVD and I was impressed at what they were able to accomplish. Having said that there are still notable source issues. A lot of archival war footage is used throughout the film and these sequences are heavily scratched and damaged (and thanks to the excellent encode these fine scratches are crisp and clear, and Iíll leave that up to you whether that is a good thing or a bad thing) and there are heavy scratches during some transitions between scenes. Throughout the rest of the film there is a noticeable flicker and pulse in areas of the frame, along with fading, and other scratches and marks pop up occasionally but again not to the degree as what is on the DVD. I can only assume the damage was too much or it was too difficult to make corrections without harming the image further. Despite this the restoration work has been far more thorough here.

Unfortunately Paisan doesnít look as good as Rome Open City but itís still a drastic improvement over the previous DVD edition. I found the image more filmic and itís definitely cleaner, and I am more than happy to replace that DVD with it.

7/10

All Blu-ray screen captures come from the source disc and have been shrunk from 1920x1080 to 900x506 and slightly compressed to conserve space. While they are not exact representations they should offer a general idea of overall video quality.

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AUDIO

Unfortunately I canít say the lossless Italian PCM audio track sounds any better than the DVDís Dolby Digital one. Itís very tinny and edgy, with heavily distorted music and dialogue. Thereís some noise in the background but itís easy to overlook thanks to all of the other problems present. Iím going to blame this on source materials, though, and not on the transfer or restoration, and I feel this is probably as good as it gets.

5/10

SUPPLEMENTS

Paisan comes available exclusively in Criterionís War Trilogy box set. Supplements are spread out over the three discs in the set but this review will be specific to those available on Paisan. Since they are the same as what was on the DVD Iím going to be very lazy and pretty much copy from my review of the DVD.

Like the other discs in the set it comes with a brief introduction by Roberto Rossellini, which was shot for a 1963 French television program showing his films. Itís a brief 3-minutes and the director covers the basic premise of the film and the themes with in it, specifically the inability of people to communicate. Not an eye-opening piece by any means, as it doesnít add anything new for anyone who has already watched the film, but itís always nice having the director talk about one of his films.

Adriano Aprŗ gives another interview piece, this time focusing on Paisan. The longest of the three segments by him on the set, running 17-minutes, he talks briefly about the production, which had a script that went through the hands of a few American writers, and also had more money thanks to an American G.I. He also breaks down each episode within the film, offering a nice analysis for them and bringing the themes up front, and then talks about the different styles that appear in each or the use of space to disorient the viewer. While the lack of a commentary for this film is disappointing this brief interview actually covers the film fairly well.

Rossellini at Rice University offers 13-minutes of excerpts from video taken of the director during a showing of his films at the university (some of these appear in the documentary on the disc for Rome Open City.) I will mention the audio is rather poor so I had to strain at times to hear what the director was saying. Heís asked about the possible influences of French expressionism on his films and also asked about the script to the film they viewed (which I assume is Paisan.) He also talks about the actors and the use of improvisation, and even talks a bit about the individual segments in Paisan. Itís disappointing that more of the footage isnít included here, though I assume it might be because thereís discussion about other films. But, despite the audio being hard to hear at times, I was glad at the inclusion of what we do get, getting more about the film from Rossellini himself.

The best feature on here, though, is Tag Gallagherís 30-minute illustrated essay called Into the Future, which offers a surprisingly thorough examination of all three films in the War Trilogy, stepping through each film. He offers a thorough examination of the techniques used, the editing, and even makes comparisons to the script. He brings up some of the themes found in the films, how Italians and Americans would perceive the films (specifically Paisan, and then offers a great analysis of the character of Edmund from Germany Year Zero (and it should be noted that there are SPOILERS in this segment for that film, so if you havenít seen the film yet you may want to skip the feature until you view it.) Itís a great feature, one of the best ones in the release, and Iím a tad disappointed there wasnít more from Gallagher to be found on this set.

In comparison with the rest of the discs it has the fewest number of supplements but it might have the strongest one in Gallagherís essay.

8/10

CLOSING

On its own itís a very good edition, delivering a very strong digital video presentation (though limited by the source materials) and a nice set of supplements, Gallagherís essay being the stand out. A very solid upgrade over the old DVD.




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