• Viva l'Italia

    Released by: Arrow Academy
    Released on: January 30th, 2018.
    Director: Roberto Rossellini
    Cast: Renzo Ricci, Paolo Stoppa, Franco Interlenghi
    Year: 1961
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    The Movie:

    A historical drama focusing on the unification of the nation-states of Italy, cinematic titan Roberto Rossellini's 1961 VIVA L’ITALIA tells the story of general Giuseppe Girabaldi (Renzo Ricci) and how he united the nation of Italy using various innovative military tactics. This was known as “The Expedition Of The Thousand” and involved Garibaldi’s out-manned force bringing the various squabbling independent kingdoms of Italy to heel by military force under the orders of Victor Emmanuel II.

    This is an interesting film because it presents the great Rossellini a chance to both explore his humanism and his patriotism. Rossellini made quite a few brilliant anti war films like ROME OPEN CITY and his filmography always showed his deep concern for the emotional lives and inner turmoils of his characters. Here he could have been easily shoehorned into a linear and even dull war film filled with stock characters and rah rah banalities or simply a sub-BEN HUR piece of impressive but emotionally vacuous spectacle.

    There are two important aspects to this film. The first is the portrayal of Garibaldi as a historical figure by Rossellini. The second is the staging and shooting of the battle scenes. The general as portrayed by Renzi is a charismatic figure deeply concerned with the suffering and tribulations of his troops. This occasionally veers into borderline hagiography, but Renzi’s committed and carefully calibrated performance keeps it from crossing the dramatic red line. Then there’s the battle scenes. Decades of in-your-face war films like SAVING PRIVATE RYAN and HACKSAW RIDGE have accustomed viewers to an assaultive blood and guts approach to this kind of material. Of course, because of the era that this was made in, there was very little chance of Rossellini being able to show serious violence onscreen anyway. But his approach of using a “God’s eye” roving camera with interesting applications of the zoom makes for a wonderfully cinematic experience. It creates an interesting sense of scale and gives the film a strong documentary feel. The film’s focus on Garibaldi’s use of then cutting edge technology like the telegram make for less thrilling viewing but these aspects aren’t enough to derail the narrative significantly.

    Rossellini was extremely proud of this film snd while I don’t consider it one of his seminal works, it is an important part of the man’s canon and well worth a look.


    VIVA L’ITALIA hasn’t been all that easy to come by even in its home country. Arrow’s beautiful Blu-ray set rectified that situation nicely. The 1.66:1. framed 1080p AVC encoded presentation represents a massive upgrade from previous versions. Colors pop - especially the red uniforms of Garibaldi’s men. In fact, color reproduction is probably this disc's strongest suit. This was a title that suffered from the washout blues in the past, and this restoration has fixed that. Detail levels are strong as well, but Rossellini’s frequent use of wide shots tends to dampen that aspect a bit. Black levels are good and no digital manipulation of the image like sharpening appears visible.

    Audio is a straightforward Italian mono track in LPCM 2.0 that, while it won’t be winning any awards, gets the job done. European audio tracks from this era have always had a tendency towards artificiality and this is no exception. There’s also a certain amount of distortion to deal with but nothing disastrous.

    Arrow also give us the shortened American cut of the film restored to the same level of quality as the Italian version. Known as GARIBALDI and dubbed into English, this is mostly an historical curio. It streamlines the narrative and clumsily inserts an often overbearing narration to explain what’s going on.

    The principal extra of value is a long and involved on camera chat with Ruggero Deodato who was Rossellini's assistant on the film. Deodato of course went on to his own highly controversial directing career but he adored Rossellini and he has a lot to say about the difficulties of this shoot. Filming at historical locations and proper lighting were real issues on the shoot and while Deodato can occasionally get fairly technical, he’s always an animated and lively interview subject. Finally, there’s an engaging video essay by critic Tag Gallagher that addresses some of Rossellini’s filming techniques and his approach to putting Italian history on screen.

    As usual, Arrow have also provided an informative booklet written this time by Michael Pattinson that focuses on Rossellini’s maverick tendencies in this particular production.

    The Final Word:

    One of Roberto Rossellini’s overlooked yet most interesting films, VIVA L’ITALIA has finally been given a worthy release by Arrow Academy. As both a war film and historical drama with documentarian tendencies, this is a worthwhile viewing experience. The fine transfer and quality extras make this an easy recommendation for those inclined towards this sort of material.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!