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Rossellini Retrospective Marks ‘Open City’ Anniversary

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The American Cinematheque commemorates the 50th anniversary of “Open City” with a screening of a restored print of Roberto Rossellini’s great neo-realist film Thursday at 8 p.m. at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, 8949 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills. A weekend retrospective of Rossellini films, most of them virtually unknown in the United States, will screen at the Directors Guild, 7920 Sunset Blvd.

When Anna Magnani achieved international renown in “Open City,” a raw, jagged, shot-on-the-run panorama of Rome on the eve of liberation from the Germans, Betty Grable and Rita Hayworth were the reigning queens of America’s box offices. By dizzying contrast, here was Magnani, playing an ill-fated, pregnant mother, with her hair a mess and those shadows under her eyes that were to deepen with the years to become as much a trademark as her volcanic personality.

Magnani also gave a virtuosic portrayal of a woman desperately trying to hold on to her dignity in a long telephone scene, speaking to the lover who has left her in “A Human Voice,” Rossellini’s 1947 vignette adapted from the Jean Cocteau one-act play. This short film will screen Saturday at 9 p.m. along with another short, the controversial 1948 “The Miracle,” in which Magnani plays a simple peasant woman, seduced by a mountain climber (a slim, blond Federico Fellini) whom she believes to be St. Joseph.

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These two shorts will be followed by “Journey to Italy” (1953), a work of sublime simplicity--and some technical glitches typical of Rossellini in this era. It is the third of his collaborations with Ingrid Bergman, who succeeded Magnani in both the director’s personal and professional lives. Bergman and George Sanders play a conventional English couple whose marriage starts coming apart while traveling by car to Naples.

One of the few Rossellini rarities available for preview is a real discovery, “The Machine That Kills Bad People” (Saturday at 5:15 p.m.), a hilarious, seemingly effortless 1948 dark comedy. Set in a beautiful, ancient seaside village, it tells of the local photographer, Celestino, who discovers, after having been visited by a mysterious elderly stranger, that if he photographs a photo of an individual, it instantly freezes him or her. What ensues is a delicious parable on the folly of human beings attempting to play God. This Rossellini retrospective is a treasure.

For full program: (213) 466-FILM.

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Prison View: With “Inside Out” (Sunset 5, Saturdays and Sundays at 11 a.m.) writer-director-actress Gianna Maria Garbelli has created an absorbing contemporary melodrama that shows her varied talents to good advantage.

Garbelli casts herself as a sexy, vibrant young woman who has been paroled after serving seven years for international drug trafficking but who is required to return every night by 10 to a cell in a central Milan prison for the next three years. “Inside Out” has aptly been compared to “Straight Time” in its depiction of an ex-convict struggling to go straight in the face of considerable pressures to do otherwise. Garbelli has a terrific screen presence. Annie Girardot is equally effective as her staunch mother, her only true mainstay. Although a little long at 110 minutes--the film seems to have been made in two parts for Italian TV--"Inside Out” is the kind of film usually slotted into a regular run.

Information: (213) 848-3500.

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On Hiroshima: Writer-producer Keiji Nakazawa and director Masaki Mori’s “Barefoot Gen” (Monica 4-Plex, Friday and Saturday at midnight; Saturday and Sunday at 11 a.m.) is almost certainly unlike any other animated feature. It commences in deceptively normal fashion as a simple story of the everyday adventures of two little brothers, Gen and Shinji, who live happily with their older sister, father and pregnant mother.

The time and place of their story, however, spells out what is to come, for they are living in Hiroshima in the summer of 1945. Although the great director Shohei Imamura tackled the atomic bombing of Hiroshima superbly in his 1990 “Black Rain,” “Barefoot Gen” uses the stylized possibilities unique to animation to distance us effectively from the horrors it depicts. Anti-militarist in spirit, the 80-minute film is based on a series of books by cartoonist Nakazawa, who was 6 when he survived the Hiroshima bombing.

Information: (310) 394-9741.


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