DENNIS SCHWARTZ 
IS THERE ANY GOOD 
IN SAYING 
EVERYTHING ABOUT A MOVIE?

 
WHERE IS FREEDOM? (DOV'E LA LIBERTA...?) (director/writer: Roberto Rossellini; screenwriters: Vitaliano Brancati/Ennio Flaiano/Antonio Pietrangeli/Vincenzo Talarico; cinematographers: Aldo Tonti/Tonino Delli Colli,; editor: Jolanda Benvenuti; music: Renzo Roberto Rossellini; cast: Salvatore Lojacono (Totò), Nita Dover (Streetwalker), Franca Faldini (Maria), Vera Molnar (Agnesina), Ines Florentini (Amalia, mother-in-law), Leopoldo Trieste (Abramo Piperno), Eugenio Orlandi (Romolo Torquati), Augusta Mancini (Teresa), Andrea Compagnoni (Nandino), Mario Castellani (Public Minister), Vincenzo Talarico (Defense Lawyer); Runtime: 91; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Carlo Ponti/Dino De Laurentiis; Lionsgate; 1954-Italy-in Italian with English subtitles)

 
"A vehicle to showcase the comedic talents of the noted Neapolitan comedian Totò."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz 

Where is Freedom? is a vehicle to showcase the comedic talents of the noted Neapolitan comedian Totò, but its screenplay reaches for dark comedy and social comment rather than merely for broad comedy. But it didn't work for me, as it failed to convince me prison was better than being a free man (seemingly its intention!) and its comic antics seemed forced and not that funny. Director Roberto Rossellini ("Paisan"/"Stromboli"/"Germany, Year Zero") explores how an honest person can perhaps function better in prison than on his own, and uses farce to make his questionable points.

Salvatore (Totò) is a good-natured Roman barber who has spent twenty-two years behind bars for 'a crime of passion,' slitting in 1930 the throat of his best friend for having an affair with his wife. After only a short time on parole, he finds the outside world not to his liking and gets arrested for breaking into jail. The pic follows the artless ex-convict's trial, where he hopes to return to his comfort-zone in jail, and the pic goes into flashback. It shows how easily Sal adjusted to prison life and when released on a two year parole, finds himself in a cold world he doesn't understand as he meets one dishonest person after another and finds himself in only bad situations.

It starts with a street-walker (Nita Dover) taking Sal to a dance marathon and how a con man producer of the dance marathon runs out before paying the dancers the prize money he promised, as the compassionate Sal pays the food bills so the dancer's won't starve and therefore loses the money needed to get a decent place to live. When the dancers go to police headquarters to press charges against the producer, Sal is ordered to find a permanent residence by the police official in order to comply with his parole. The marshal gives Sal the address of a cheap boarding house, but the mean-spirited landlady (Augusta Mancini) gives him the boot to bring in another tenant when he can't pay the advance rent as his rep as the slasher barber scares away potential customers. Out on the street, the widower runs into his wife's thuggish brother (Eugenio Orlandi), who moved the entire family into the rich house of a Jewish family sent to the concentration camp by them as they collaborated with the Nazi-occupiers. Sal also finds out from Nandino (Andrea Compagnoni), that his wife had an affair for a long time with his friend and when she tired of him she tricked her chump husband to get rid of him. While in prison, wifey lived with Nandino until her death. The family also try to pass off on the soft-hearted Sal a pretty young girl (Vera Molnar) that one of them knocked-up.

It's presented as a two-disc DVD by Lionsgate, entitled the Roberto Rossellini collection. The other obscure film on the DVD was Era Notte a Roma (1960).

REVIEWED ON 7/13/2010       GRADE: C+

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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