Paisan | Chicago Reader

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Roberto Rossellini's six-part film about the liberation of Italy was released in 1946; it confirmed the neorealist style of his Open City, released a year earlier, but also extended that style into melodrama, where many critics did not want to follow. The episodes all seem to have an anecdotal triteness—black soldier befriends orphan boy, prostitute finds redemption, etc—but each acquires a wholly unexpected naturalness and depth of feeling from Rossellini's refusal to hype the anecdotes with conventional dramatic rhetoric. The concluding episodes—a final skirmish between Germans and partisans in the Po valley—is one of Rossellini's most sublime accomplishments, a largely wordless sequence that uses shifting focal lengths, drifting camera movements, and natural sounds to create a suspense of almost unbearable intensity and immediacy.

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