by Joseph E. Lerner
Arrivederci! Tom yelps, waving his mangled hand, projector strapped to scooter as he angles off into the juttery night. “Open City” is our next scheduled feature save for a fused sprocket and shredded lamp: our chalet flattened, the rocket meant for the red cross clinic one valley over, where (it’s rumored) Il Ducé, though hanged, rests and recovers. Tom’s Nurse Nell’s beau: like us, she’s both spy and cinephile, assassin, esthete, mender, fixer, and—lately—film star: lustrous and venomous, eighty feet high, wielding a scalpel like a scimitar: bombardiers salute, their weapon bays closed, and fly right past her.
I began watching foreign films as a teenager growing up in 1960s Baltimore. At the time Hollywood was dying. But French New Wave and Italian Neorealism had become so popular in the U.S. that many theaters instead of shutting down became art houses specializing in foreign films.
At The Senator Theatre I watched Fellini’s “La Dolce Vita” and “Satyricon”; at The New Theater Rossellini’s “Open City,” Godard’s “Breathless,” and Truffaut’s “Jules and Jim”; and at the Pike Theater in nearby Baltimore County my friends and I, underage, were turned away from Sidney Lumet’s “The Pawnbroker”—a very foreign-like film that was also the first major American movie about the Holocaust
Decades later, when the idea for “Open City” came to me, I thought of it as a montage of both Neorealism and surrealism—and so an homage not only to early Rossellini but to the later, more experimental Antonioni, Fellini, and Godard.
Joseph E. Lerner has worked as a photographer, filmmaker, writer, editor, and small press publisher. His flash fiction and poems have appeared in 100 Word Story, deComP MagazinE, Gargoyle, Jet Fuel Review, Pif, PoetsWest, The Prose-Poem, and elsewhere. After several years traveling in Europe and South Asia (and one year traveling by train across the U.S.), he has returned to the Seattle area, where he's working on a novel as well as poems and short stories. Joseph E. Lerner also blogs at LongTaleShort.com.