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Locarno, year one. The fifth Secret Screening of Locarno 2020 took the GranRex audience all the way back to the beginning of the Locarno Film Festival. In the summer of 1946, at the first edition of the Festival, one of the 15 films shown outside the Grand Hotel was Roberto Rossellini's Rome, Open City. 73 years later, the film will play again today, at 5.30 PM at the PalaVideo.
This milestone of Italian cinema played at the very first edition of the Festival, alongside such works as Sergei M. Eistenstein’s Ivan the Terrible (1944), Billy Wilder’s Double Indemnity (1944) and John M. Stahl’s The Keys of the Kingdom (1944), back when screenings took place in the gardens of the Grand Hotel and each evening the relevant country’s flag would be hoisted, accompanied by the corresponding national anthem (in Italy’s case it was probably the patriotic song La Leggenda del Piave, as Mameli’s anthem didn’t become the official song of the Italian Republic until October of that year). Since then, oddly enough, this film by Rossellini, his fourth, has not been shown in Locarno since. Seeing today what Jacques Lourcelles calls “an exploratory journal of the present” in his Dictionnaire du cinéma, has a twofold testimonial impact. It also creates a strange temporal disparity between the half-destroyed, recently liberated Rome and the pleasant Locarno, which dreamed of freedom and created this “Festival of the free world” that greeted stars on the shores of the lake.