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SPECIFICATIONS
  • 1.33:1 Standard
  • Italian Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono
  • English subtitles
  • 1 Disc
FEATURES
  • Video introduction by Roberto Rossellini from 1963
  • Rossellini and the City, a new documentary on Rossellini's use of the urban landscape in these films, by film scholar Mark Shiel
  • Excerpts from rarely seen videotaped discussions Rossellini had with faculty and students at Rice University in 1970 about his craft
  • Into the Future, a new visual essay about the War Trilogy by film scholar Tag Gallagher

Paisan


Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: Roberto Rossellini
Starring: Carmela Sazio, Robert Van Loon, Dots M. Johnson, Maria Michi, Gar Moore, Harriet White, Renzo Avanzo, William Tubbs
1946 | 120 Minutes | Licensor: Cinecitta

Release Information
DVD | MSRP: $79.95 | Series: The Criterion Collection | Edition: #498 | Out of print
RLJ Entertainment

Release Date: January 26, 2010
Review Date: January 24, 2010

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SYNOPSIS

Roberto Rossellini's follow-up to his breakout Rome Open City was the ambitious, enormously moving Paisan (Paisŗ), which consists of six episodes set during the liberation of Italy at the end of World War II, 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.

Forum members rate this film 8.1/10

 

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PICTURE

Roberto Rosselliniís Paisan comes in Criterionís new War Trilogy box set, presented in the original aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on a dual-layer disc (the second disc of the three-disc set.) The image has also been slightly picture boxed.

Compared to the other films in the set the overall image for Paisan probably looks the worst. Criterion acknowledges in their booklet that the available elements for the film were ďdisastrousĒ so it shouldnít be a surprise that it looks so rough here. Still, like with Rome Open City it looks pretty good all things considered. The film still presents quite a bit of damage in the way of scratches and marks, the film can flicker, fade in and out, and jump. I also suspect frames are missing based mostly on one moment in the segment at the monastery where two characters in the background suddenly disappear from the shot, and considering the documentary feel Rossellini was going for I doubt this was intentional. Scratches and marks arenít too bad but they become quite heavy during transitions between scenes.

Iíll note that while the grade below reflects the image as a whole (print condition and the actual digital transfer) the lower score has more to do with the condition of the film and not the digital transfer itself. The transfer itself is fine, though has a few problems. It has some trouble with the filmís grain and it can look a little more like noise. Contrast is okay but black levels are not strong at all, coming off more like a dark gray (something that plagues all of the films in the set to a certain degree.) This aspect of the transfer probably has more to do with the source elements than the transfer, though.

Still, I was expecting much worse. Itís still quite watchable but some may still feel disappointed. By the sounds of it, though, this is the best that can be done without completely butchering the image. Despite itís issues Iím still quite happy with it.

5/10

All DVD screen captures are presented in their original size from the source disc. Images have been compressed slightly to conserve space. While they are not exact representations they should offer a general idea of overall video quality.

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AUDIO

Paisan may also present the worst audio of all of the films. Itís tinny and it has a fair bit of damage. Voices sound a bit unnatural and flat, though this may have to do with the post-production dubbing. Thereís also a very noticeable hiss in the background. Like the video I suspect the source elements were in horrific shape and that this is about all a restoration can do.

5/10

SUPPLEMENTS

As a whole the War Trilogy presents an extensive selection of supplements over its three discs, each disc devoted specifically to the film on the disc or the entire trilogy. The supplement review found here is specific to the disc for Paisan and not the set as a whole.

In terms of supplements this individual disc in the set is the weakest of the three, though it has a couple of good ones.

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, 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 at 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 improve, and even talks a bit about the 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.

And thatís actually it for this disc in the set. In comparison with the rest of the discs it has the fewest number of supplements but it might have the strongest one to be found in the whole box set with Gallagherís essay.

8/10

CLOSING

Overall Paisan is the weakest of the set, presenting the weakest image and sound (which has more to do with the condition of the materials, which Criterion has worked hard in cleaning up as much as possible) and presenting the weaker and least amount of supplements, though Gallagherís essay is possibly the best feature to be found in the entire box set. But this shouldnít be a deterrent from purchasing the box set, which, as of now, is the only way to own the DVD; this is more than likely the best the film has looked in a long while and it still looks better than I was expecting. Plus the entire box set is one of Criterionís more impressive and wonderful releases.


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