Stromboli | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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When a genuined aesthetic history of cinema is finally written--as opposed to industry and entertainment histories--the five films Roberto Rossellini made with Ingrid Bergman between 1949 and 1956 should rank high in importance. It is not simply that his daring plotless scenes helped shape the explorations of the inner lives of characters in the films of directors such as Fellini, Antonioni, and Godard. Nor is it only that Bergman never looked more sensuous than in the unadorned photography and stark Mediterranean sunlight of her and Rossellini's first film together, Stromboli, during the filming of which they became lovers. Rather, Rossellini's avoidance of beautiful composition and "artistic" cinematic devices is a sign of a new and original way of looking at the world. He didn't seek to circumscribe or control the action, but rather to observe it, even to wait for it to happen, as in Stromboli's extraordinary tuna-fishing sequence. When the Bergman character attempts to climb a volcano at the film's end and is reduced by the ordeal to a near speechless, almost childlike mixture of ecstatic wonder and spiritual pain, she has learned to be open to the world around her in a way that she has not been before. While through most of the film she had been fighting against her environment, at this climax, as she learns to accept it, the film's open, noncontrolling observational style finds an explicit human expression. This film, previously shown in the U.S. only in a badly butchered version, is being screened in a newly restored 35 millimeter print. (Film Center, Art Institute, Columbus Drive at Jackson, Thursday, OCtober 25, 6:00, 443-3737)

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