ROME — Fifty-two years after it preemed at the Venice Intl. Film Festival, Roberto Rossellini’s neo-realist classic “Paisan” will return to the Lido in a restored version experts believe is the director’s original cut, unseen since 1946.
The milestone drama, written by Rossellini and Federico Fellini about life in Italy during World War II, will screen Sept. 10 as one of the special events of the upcoming 55th Venice fest.
The recent discovery of this more complete version of “Paisan” was made by Adriano Apra, director of Italy’s National Cinematheque, who has published various books on Rossellini and who made a documentary on the neo-realism founder.
The existence of a longer version of “Paisan” was widely known to film scholars, but the unavailability of the original negative has made this impossible to prove. Thanks to a rare copy of the film donated by Berlin’s cinematheque, the original cut may have re-emerged.
While comparing the German copy with the standard 125-minute version that has circulated in Italy for the past 50 years, Apra discovered it runs eight minutes longer and contains around twenty substantial differences in scenes throughout five of the film’s six episodes.
The absence of more accurate records from the period — and of the final reel from the German print — makes it difficult to verify if this is the same version that originally premiered in Venice. But reviews from the Rome release in March 1947 noted it had been marginally retooled since the Venice screening and two subsequent showings in Rome and Paris the previous fall. A shorter, 90-minute version was later distributed in the U.S.
Rossellini frequently retouched the final edit after initial screenings of his films. Having interrupted post-production on “Paisan” due to the sudden death of his son in Barcelona, the director rushed the final editing stages, barely completing the cut in time for its Venice bow.
Differences in story credits between the German copy and standard prints are believed to indicate dissent between Rossellini and his collaborators over the final release cut.
Due to the short time since the discovery was made, the print of “Paisan” screening in Venice has been visually restored, but will still undergo a complete sound overhaul.