General della Rovere (Il generale Della Rovere) Reviews
At a time when new Europe was rising, why turn to the past in such a melodramatic way? Why offer us a sort of modern St Magdalena tale? There is something seriously off in this film entirely turned in studios, miles away from the raw strength of Roma Cittą Aperta.
Enter the piano tuner.
While some might criticize "General Della Rovere" for getting off to a slow start before the plot eventually kicks in, I think it is more a case of a carefully told study of a character who could be viewed as something of a scoundrel, cad, con man, or thief.(Did I leave out anything?) However, what is most important about Grimaldi is that he does not just pocket all of the money; he does try and help his fellow Italians with his innate charm by bribing Nazis(in wartime, everybody has their roles to play.) who after five years of war are worn down and possibly see the writing on the wall.(The Sergeant wants to be paid in cash.) There is literal writing in the notices the Nazis post, promising death for everything more severe than spitting on the street(as you can see, Grimaldi has lots of business) which is only a small part of the arresting images(including some archival footage) that director Roberto Rossellini uses to create a powerful tale of occupied Italy during World War II while avoiding easy sentimentality.
You know, somebody yesterday indirectly said I wasn't a [i]real[/i] film buff, because I use Netflix, and it's only for people who want to watch recent blockbusters. It is, admittedly, true that I get a lot of the more obscure stuff I watch out of the library, and a lot of what I get from Netflix is older classics or otherwise things the library doesn't have. However, I have to point out to you that this review is the first user review in the system for this movie. That has been the case several times lately, one of the few interesting things from the new site being that they show you a few examples of what other people thought. (This has only added to my certainty that I'm one of the only people around here who really writes reviews more complicated than "OMG this was awesome!" So much for uniformity, huh, Rotten Tomatoes?) I admit that I turned off a couple of movies this morning before getting to this one--I turned off [i]In Her Shoes[/i] yesterday because of my fantasies of Cameron Diaz's character getting raped and murdered, too. So I'm not sure my choices have much to do with my film-buffitude.
There was a point during World War II when the Germans had invaded Italy, and the Allies had not yet liberated it. Most Italian films about the war take place during this time, because we all know it's easier to make the Nazis villains. We like to ignore home-grown fascists. At any rate, Grimaldi (Vittorio De Sica) isn't a fascist. He isn't really much of anything. A compulsive gambler, really, chronically in debt and mooching off anyone he can. This entangles him with his local SS office. He pretends to be providing assistance to families who have come in search of a loved one in Nazi custody, but it's basically a con to pay off debts incurred when he gambled money entrusted to him by SS Colonel Mueller (Hannes Messemer). When he isn't quite successful at this, when Mueller discovers his con, Mueller gets him to substitute for Italian hero General Victorio Emanuele Bardone Della Rovere, who has been shot and killed but is eagerly awaited by the partisans. Having a General Della Rovere in place can be very helpful to them, and it will stop Grimaldi from being shipped off to Germany.
Only of course it isn't that simple for Grimaldi. Everyone in prison wants to feel important to the general. One man eagerly asks if Della Rovere remembers the man's brother, who served as a signalman in Africa. The prisoners, mostly condemned to death, want to feel that they are remembered. They want to feel that their deaths will not be in vain, that there will be an Italy that remembers and honours them. The war will be over soon; even the Nazis know that by this point. Grimaldi must bear their hopes. In order to get the information he has been sent into the prison to get, he must inhabit the character of the general. It is, I think, difficult to do that without really learning what the person is about and probably starting to feel that, to feel how important it is. To feel the person's own wants and dreams and needs. If it is possible, it is not possible for Grimaldi.
I like that this film doesn't slip into the Italians=good/Germans=bad false dichotomy. Grimaldi is a conman. He's a compulsive gambler. He gives his girlfriend a fake ring, and when she breaks up with him and gives it back--because she knows it's fake--he takes it to all the other people he can find in order to try to sell it to some other sucker. Hells, come to that, he was willing to go into the prison to find someone who was just fighting for Italy in the first place. On the other hand, when Mueller says he doesn't want to torture Bianchelli (Vittorio Caprioli), he really does mean it. It isn't a cinematic moustache twirl. He finds Bianchelli important to the smooth running of the prison--he's been in for three months on a death sentence, something Nazis were generally not, as a rule, hesitant to carry out, but he speculates he's still alive because they don't have another barber. He is actually angry at Grimaldi because of what his foolish actions set in motion.
Rossellini is another one of those directors whose style I am not able to pick out of a series of clips. However, this is a very cleanly made film. There do not seem to be wasted shots. He does not work to make it pretty. It did strike me as odd that the prisoners would get the (relatively) comfy beds and the thick, warm blankets, but I don't know what an actual [i]prison[/i] in Italy under the Nazis was like. There is a shot here of people walking in the snow that, to me, feels like the shot in [i]Schindler's List[/i] where the Poles are walking through what looks like snow and, horrifyingly, is not. It would not surprise me to find out that it's intended to, that Spielberg was aware of this film. Rossellini also shows us an Italy with which we are not familiar. This Italy is not all sunny and warm and friendly. People forget, for example, that there is such thing as the Italian Alps. These people dealing with the snow are not like those in [i]Amarcord[/i], dealing with a freak event. This is something with which they are used to. Like they do with the Nazis, they must just deal with it.
Para muchos Rossellini es el director de la conciencia historica, sobre la funcionalidad de la historia para un progreso moral eso lo demostraria todavia mas con sus ultimos tele-filmes sobre diversos acontecimientos historicos (la toma de poder de Louis XIV, Blaise Pascal, Socrates son algunos de esos telefilms).
La actuacion de De Sica wow de primer nivel reflejando ese progreso del personaje de su decadencia hacia la redencion.