Ingrid Bergman & Roberto Rossellini at VIFF
Sun Jan 17
Stromboli | 3pm
Journey To Italy | 6:50pm
both screenings at the VanCity
When I was immersed in writing about Soul Food movies, there was one European master of cinema whose work was virtually unavailable. Occasionally on the big screens of art houses, and any time on the small screen in your home, it was easy enough to see pretty much anything by Robert Bresson, Andrei Tarkovsky, Karl Theodor Dreyer, Krystof Kieslowski, or – if your tastes ran to a distinctly nordic brand of angst and doubt – Ingmar Bergman.
But Rossellini? Good luck. Almost no prints available for public screening, and many titles not available at all. On video, aging VHS tape or low-budget worse-quality semi-legal DVD copies, all of them badly subtitled - when you could find them at all.
In the fall of 2006, Cinematheque Ontario hosted the first major retrospective of Rossellini's films. I blogged about the month and a half series, which moved on from Toronto to Los Angeles and New York, writing "whether it will ever reach Vancouver remains to be seen. For now, we'll just have to enjoy the catalog, and try to restrain our envy…" That post includes curator James Quandt's notes on Making The Rossellini Retrospective as well as a passage from another of his essays, dealing with Rossellini's Catholicism.
For those of us who couldn't get to Toronto, New York or Los Angeles I transcribed everything Martin Scorsese had to say about Rossellini in his very personal film essay My Voyage To Italy. It's great stuff: here's a link.
In spring 2007 I made my first trip to New York, and spent time at MoMA looking at the rare posters, photos and papers relating to the Rossellini Retrospective that was finishing up there. The photos in this post are from that visit.
In 2010, Criterion made Rossellini's War Trilogy available on DVD; Rome Open City (1945), Paisan (1946), and Germany Year Zero (1948). "This is a momentous occasion. We have been working on our five hundredth release for either ten or twenty-five years, depending on how you look at it. No project has been more challenging than this one, but we could not be prouder to mark our twenty-fifth birthday by offering you spine number 500, Roberto Rossellini’s War Trilogy…" More about Rossellini and that DVD set here.
Even then, the New Yorker's Richard Brody wrote "But there’s one boxed set, a natural to compile, that doesn’t exist, and its absence from home video is perhaps the single most grievous cinematic blind spot in the marketplace: the five features and one short film that he made with Ingrid Bergman (whom he married in the course of their collaborations), between 1949 and 1955."
Eventually Criterion released 3 Films By Roberto Rossellini Starring Ingrid Bergman; Stromboli, Europa '51, and Journey To Italy. And tomorrow, an opportunity for Vancouverites to see two of those films on the big screen at the home of the VIFF; Stromboli screens at 3pm, Journey To Italy at 6:50.