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Il Generale della Rovere


Brass assisted Rossellini once again, this time on a film that Rossellini came to loathe. Inspired by a true story, this film concerns a cowardly Italian con man who is imprisoned by the Nazis and instructed to assume the identity of General della Rovere, a partisan war hero. The film is quite powerful, and definitely worth seeing, but I don’t think too many people would want to watch it more than once. The pain it depicts will make you flinch. The entire film is understated and underplayed, except for one scene during an air raid, when the camerawork goes wild. I would hazard a guess that Brass directed (or helped direct) that bombastic bit. If not, he certainly borrowed some of its effects for his own films later on.

The American subtitled prints sadly reset all the opening credits in English, and maliciously deleted the name of Giovanni Brass! Phooey on them.

HERE’S SOME PUBLICITY THAT HASN’T SEEN THE LIGHT OF DAY SINCE 1960 (like so much writing about movies, it’s laughable, but it’s still interesting):


Roberto Rossellini, who not long ago was artistically, commercially and in the hearts of his countrymen (and elsewhere) as solid as an overdone strand of linguini, is shooting back into the film firmament like a Roman candle.

After he made “Stromboli” and a few other bombolis, and after l’affaire Bergman, the press and the public weren’t even saying “arrivederci”; they were giving him the old gladiatorial thumbs-down. Now, his two latest pictures are award-winners and he has a rosy horizon full of prospects.

Last Spring at the Venice Film Festival, Rossellini’s “General della Rovere”, which has its premiere here on .......... at the .......... Theatre, won first prize as the best picture of the year. The International Film Critics awarded the film their top prize, and it received five — that’s right, cinque — awards at the 1959 San Francisco film summit meeting — including one for the best direction.

On November 1st, this year, Rossellini’s “Night Over Rome” won two prizes at the fourth annual International Film Festival in San Francisco.

This cascade of kudos, remindful of the days when Rossellini was being lionized for such movie milestones as “Open City” and “Paisan” — and before he became labeled as a sort of latter-day Casanova — bore out predictions by his intimates that the man who had brought about a postwar renaissance in the Italian film industry was ripe for a personal renaissance.

Some of these intimates blamed his temporary directorial slump on Miss Bergman. Federico Fellini, director of “La Strada,” who cut his camera-eye-teeth under Roberto’s tutelage, said: “He always began with a story line, never a personality. He tried to bring Miss Bergman into his world, but his world is sensual and contradictory. Hers was nice, clean, calm and comfortable.”

Rossellini’s cousin, film executive Renato Avanzo, said that the director could make films only in “the heroic manner,” while Miss Bergman came from “a proper, serious, industrial film world.” And Jean Renoir, whose directorial genius had influenced Roberto to change from his first screen love — writing — to directing, said that he and Ingrid had been looking for different things, artistically.

Rossellini made his reputation in the lean postwar days but found the Italian film industry’s subsequent prosperity a handicap.

“What had been acceptable and even poignant realism when our cities were destroyed and our people famished,” he said, “forced us, under the changed circumstances, to rebuild ruins in studios and paint deprivation on the again-healthy cheeks of our actors, resulting in artless fakery.”

“We had to have ‘names’, but, as I learned myself, even the highest artistry of a polished and sensitive star does not blend satisfactorily with stark realism and truth. We also had to have writers, but real-life stories with universal meaning are hard to find.”

Then, one day, Rossellini met an old friend, Italian journalist and author Indro Montanelli.

“He told me he had a story ‘ready-made by that old master, life itself,’ the story of a con-man he had met in a German prison camp, who had been put there by the Nazis as a stool pigeon, and who masqueraded as a war hero. He told me how this man slowly ‘lived’ himself into this role and finally became the man he impersonated, ending as a hero life never intended him to be. I decided then and there to make the picture and my friend Vittorio de Sica readily consented to play the lead. I believe that in “General della Rovere” we have made a film in the tradition of Il Realismo of the post-war years.”

With the opening of this picture in New York all critics stated the director has taken a giant step in what might be titled, “The Return of Rossellini.” Once more he is, deservedly, getting recognition in the eyes of the world as a cinema great, rather than mainly from keyhole columns as a boudoir lothario.

Produced by Morris Ergas, “General della Rovere” is a Continental Distributing Inc. release.


Roberto Rossellini, whose latest film, the prize-winning “General della Rovere” starring Vittorio de Sica premieres here at the .......... Theatre on .......... was the subject recently of an interview in the “Lively Arts” section of the New York Herald Tribune.

Referring to the noted Italian director as a maker of neo-realist movies who “tries to reveal a layer of nobility in his slices of life,” the article continues as follows:

“‘General della Rovere’ tells the story of a swindler who preys on his countrymen’s misfortunes during the German occupation of Italy in World War II. Amid squalid surroundings and base instincts, Mr. Rossellini has cut deeply in the hope of finding hope.

“‘I don’t believe that the feelings that move men are solely ambition, desire for power, violence and sex,’ he said. ‘I think they are interested and moved by nobler motives as well.’

“At film festivals last year in Venice and San Francisco, ‘General della Rovere’ won top honors. Mr. Rossellini had intended to accompany his film to New York for its premiere, but illness prevented him from doing so. From Rome, he cabled answers to questions put to him last week by the New York Herald Tribune.

“Why, he was asked, had he set another film in World War II, a period which gave birth to earlier Rossellini movies like ‘Open City’ and ‘Paisan’?

“‘Because,’ Mr. Rossellini replied, ‘I feel that it is necessary to re-introduce the great feeling that moved men when they were confronted face to face with final decisions.’

“The director said he didn’t consider his latest film a ‘return to neo-realism,’ implying that he could not return to a technique which he had never left.

“Inevitably, however, Rossellini admirers will consider ‘General della Rovere’ a sign of renaissance, a signal that Rossellini has emerged from what has been called his ‘Bergman period.’ This began in 1949, drawing increasing venom from the gossips and decreasing enthusiasm from the critics who reviewed films such as ‘The Greatest Love’ and ‘Stromboli.’ In the past decade, none of his films earned the plaudits his early work received.

“For the role of the petty grifter whom the Germans force to impersonate an Italian partisan general, Mr. Rossellini chose Vittorio De Sica. A noted director in his own right, Mr. De Sica seemed ideally suited to the part from the outset, Mr. Rossellini said.

“How did a director direct Mr. De Sica? Were there any conflicts of opinion during the shooting of the film?

“‘It was easy,’ Mr. Rossellini replied, ‘because we both esteem each other and, in this picture, he was the actor and I the director.’

“The screenplay was written by Sergio Amidei, Diego Fabri and Indro Montanelli. It was suggested by one of Mr. Montanelli’s profiles that appeared in the ‘Corriere della Sera,’ a Milan evening newspaper. The profile concerned the shadowy figure of a Resistance leader, imprisoned by the Nazis, who may or may not have been a common criminal in disguise.

Indispensable Tool

“Like Rossellini’s previous efforts, ‘General della Rovere’ contains a good deal of improvisation: lines written or rewritten on the spur of the moment, gestures or bits of business discovered during shooting.

“‘This was done,’ Mr. Rossellini said, ‘because I firmly believe that there is no work that can pretend to artistic worth if the enthusiasm, the intentions and the feelings of the author are not allowed to be expressed.’ And spontaneity in production, Mr. Rossellini has said frequently, is an indispensable tool in the cultivation of those feelings and intentions.

“The director himself appears fleetingly, a la Hitchcock, in one scene.

“‘I appeared in the picture,’ he said with what, at the other end of the trans-Atlantic cable, seemed to be a straight face, ‘because we were shooting in restricted surroundings and there was no room for me behind the camera.’”

Festival and general-release versions available on a two-disc Region-0 PAL DVD set with optional English subtitles. This was a great transfer ten years ago. It compensated for overscan. For 30 years I talked until I was blue in the mouth, and no one cared. But some techies at Raro/Minerva sure cared! It’s all moot now, as flat-screen TV sets and computers and home video projectors have an option not to overscan. (Video projectors used at cinemas all overscan, though. Why, I don’t know.) Besides, this movie was composed for a 1:1.66 crop, whereas this transfer utilized the entire Academy 1:1.375 frame, which was a good idea ten years ago, though not such a good idea now. This limited deluxe edition also contains an amazingly intelligent booklet on the film, as well as Indro Montanelli’s original story. (PAL discs will not play on most US equipment.)
ANICA — Associazione Nazionale Industrie Cinematografiche Audiovisive e Multimediali

Zebra Film (Rome) and S.N.E. Gaumont (Paris) present

Il Generale della Rovere

Directed by Roberto Rossellini
Written by Sergio Amidei, Diego Fabbri, Indro Montanelli, Roberto Rossellini
From an incident suggested by Indro Montanelli
Executive producer Moris Ergas
Production Manager Paolo Frasca
Director of photography Carlo Carlini
Settings and design Piero Zuffi
Music Renzo Rossellini
Assistant directors Renzo Rossellini, Jr.,
Ruggero Deodato [uncredited in English version],
Giovanni Brass [uncredited in English version]
Editors Cesare Cavagna, Anna Maria Montanari
Production supervisor Manolo Bolognini
Camera operators Luigi Filippo Carta, Ruggero Radicchi
Make-up Goffredo Rocchetti
Sound Ovidio Del Grande
English subtitles Herman G. Weinberg
Format 1:1.375 designed for cropping at 1:1.66 • monaural
Victorio Emanuele Bardone / Grimaldi Vittorio De Sica
Colonel Mueller Hannes Messemer
Banchelli Vittorio Caprioli
Fabrizio / Pietro Valeri Guisseppe Rossetti
Olga Sandra Milo
Valeria Giovanna Ralli
Chiara Fassio Anne Vernon
Contessa della Rovere Baronessa Barzani
German officer Kurt Polter
Schrantz Kurt Selge
Vera, the Madam Mary Greco
Prostitute Lucia Modugno
Partisan Luciano Pigozzi
Partisan Nando Angelini
Partisan Bernardo Menicacci
German attendant Linda Veras
??? Herbert Fischer
??? Ester Carloni

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