Il Generale della Rovere (1959)

5 04 2009

After a couple viewings of some less than stellar Rossellini efforts (most of which came from his later didactic TV productions) it was nice to finally see something that reminded me why I was so fascinated by him in the first place. On one hand, this is closer to those TV productions than it is to his earlier, more kinetic efforts. Like those films, this is a sometimes theatrical studio-bound work, with very little formal signs of Rossellini’s origins, but the tone and the content is definitely closer to the Rossellini I love (the one of the 40s and early 50s) than the Rossellini I tolerate, i.e all of those TV productions.

I’d never guess that the problem I have with Rossellini’s later films is the acting, but there seems to be strong evidence for such a case. If this shares the form of a work like Blaise Pascal (which by the way, is one of the toughest cinematic chores I’ve had to endure) then the difference lies within the performances. Vittoria De Sica isn’t exactly my kind of actor. Personally, I think he comes off a little theatrical at times and according to Tag Gallagher, Rossellini thought so too. On the other hand, his character is about a hundred times more interesting than the ones in any of the Rossellini films that came afterwords.

De Sica’s Grimaldi is so fascinating because we’re given so little information about him to begin with, while, on the other hand, Blaise Pascal is a non-fictional figure that I’d like to think I know plenty about. Of course, another difference between this and Rossellini’s later films is the director’s own intent. He even admits that his desire in creating those television films was to educate those unaware of significant historical figures. Here, on the other hand, he still seems interested in showing the struggles (internally and externally) of a human being, which obviously leads to a narrative that is far less complicated to “get.”

Another difference, if only a small one, is the cinematography. Again, I still enjoy the energetic camera work in Rossellini’s earlier films, but I think the black and white visuals here underscore the unassuming tone better than the rather blandly color visuals of the television productions. At times, the camera moves with such a unforced pace that, upon capture these small moments of sadness, Rossellini begins to seem like a predecessor to Bela Tarr. The similarity is quite obvious on a visual standpoint, but a bit more difficult in terms of content. One sequence particularly sticks out for me, though: the one in which De Sica’s character first arrives at the Wehrmacht headquarters. The camera manages to rack De Sica with precision, yet also is able to catch these fleeting sideline sequences that immediately inevoke images of Tarr’s strange cinematic universe. That said, this is still very much a Rossellini film and one of his very best at that.

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2 responses

5 04 2009
Sebina

I really want to see some of Rossellini’s later work, like the one you’re talking about!

3 05 2009
fabio

this is one of the best movies ever made, in my opinion – an achievement in cinematography, as you said, and in acting also (you have to agree with the fact that de sica fits perfectly in the role). the portuguese version was called “de crápula a herói” (loosely translated as “from scroundrel to hero”). great blog! (came here via adc, hehe). sorry for the bad english!

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