Rome, Open City DVD Review
PictureWith the precursor of the film's age, you have to understand that this transfer has very little to compare to - we are used to modern-day productions and even some older classics being given deluxe re-mastering treatment and presented in the best way you could ever hope to see them. However, there is a limit to what technology can do and unfortunately this transfer is a very real example of those limits. From the outset, expect a crackly, scratched picture bathed in blemishes and defects that simply cannot go unnoticed. Whereas black and white is a good way of retaining significant picture depth and detail, the non-anamorphic 'full screen' state this transfer is in cannot be said to provide a deep or detailed affair in any way. The picture is relentlessly soft, often blurry, with a widely varying contrast that paints blacks from outright grey to nearly solid. The one plus point is perhaps the grain, of which there is thankfully little. All this said, I have to restate that it is a sixty-year old transfer, by far the oldest transfer I have ever seen, let alone reviewed. As such, and with nothing directly to compare, I can only applaud the fact that it is still a fairly watchable production. Note that there are fixed, burnt-in, English subtitles that do not always contemporaneously reflect the speech, but are the best we have.
SoundIn accordance with the transfer, and similarly because of age (although a little remixing wouldn't have gone completely out of place) the movie is presented with a single main Dolby mono track in the original languages of Italian and German. It is predominantly Italian, but the presence of several German characters in the movie necessitates the use of German as a fairly significant second language. This is another no-frills affair - a single audio track to cover all of the potentially varied scenes and confrontations in the movie simply isn't very good, but it's all we've got. Once again, considering the age, it is probably better than anybody could have expected, with dialogue sometimes slightly muffled but never less than decipherable - even for non-native Italian/German speakers - and the little action that there is presented as news would be through your TV set. DTS this is not, but it is still a mediocre, acceptable affair.
ExtrasThere is a forty-seven minute documentary, “The Children of Rome Open City” which features contributions from the children of the cast and crew that created the movie - and even some of the people who actually still live on the streets it was filmed in. They talk about how the film was rooted in the realism of the streets of the time - especially since it was made not long after the war was over. They travel around the locations used and shots from the movie are used to show a comparison between the state of the place then and now. They also discuss how the movie was one of the first of its kind - an independent feature not influenced by heavy-handed political or financial backers. The realistic style of almost-documentary filmmaking was a breath of fresh air for those involved. This is an interesting little making-of featurette that sheds some light on the production and certainly helps those distanced by the age of the piece understand it better, and it is the one area of the disc where it is clear that the studios have gone to some effort to pull the stops out.
VerdictRome - Open City may have been superseded by many a movie made since, but it nevertheless marks a key point in Italian cinema history. It is the kind of production that needs to be seen by everyone, but probably wouldn't warrant multiple viewings, although many might feel the need to have it in their collection for sheer completeness. Here we get perfectly reasonable technical specs, considering the age, and a modern documentary which will be of considerable interest to those who appreciate the main feature itself. And considering this movie is pretty hard to get a hold of, it's a good deal.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £19.99
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