TCM To Broadcast Rare Italian Interracial Romance Neo-Realist Film ‘Senza Pieta’ (‘Without Pity’) Monday 3/17. Why You Should See It.
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TCM To Broadcast Rare Italian Interracial Romance Neo-Realist Film ‘Senza Pieta’ (‘Without Pity’) Monday 3/17. Why You Should See It.

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One major

reason why, as a regular habit, I go carefully over the

monthly schedule for Turner Classics

Movies cable network, is because they will slip in, here and there, films

that are more than of passing interest, and that are real curiosities that more

people should be aware of.

And that’s

the case this upcoming early Monday morning on March 17 at 2AM (1 AM Central) when TCM will broadcast the rarely seen 1948 Italian Neo-Realist

film Senza Pieta (Without Pity)

after a rare TV broadcast of the 1928 silent race film Scar of Shame.

While Scar of

Shame is also a rarity, it’s more available to be seen (it’s even on YouTube

HERE). However Senza Pieta is never seen anywhere. It’s hard to find, and, to my

knowledge, has never been released in any video format; and its neglect is unfortunate.

Made during the height

of the post-World War II Italian Neo-Realist genre, in which directors such as Roberto Rossellini and Viittorio De Sica, with films such as The Bicycle Thief, Umberto D and Open City, stripped away the phony

Hollywood inspired artifice and gloss common in European films of the time, for a harder, minimalist, more realistic approach towards

story telling, chronicling people struggling to survive a cruel and unforgiving

world.

In Senza

Pieta, which was directed by Alberto

Lattuada and co-written, during his early screenwriting years, by the great Master of Cinema, director Federico

Fellini (8 ½, La Dolce Vita, Satyricon,

Amarcord, etc), the film tells the

story of a black ex-army solider, Jerry, who’s gone AWOL after WW II, and has decided

to stay in Italy after, instead of returning home to face racism there. He then meets an Italian prostitute under strange circumstances – during the middle of

gun battle between gangsters, in which he’s wounded.

The two of

them fall in love, and try to make it, despite getting caught up with those same gangsters, and it all winds up, as you can imagine, not so happily, in an emotionally powerful

ending, though admittedly the symbolism is rather heavy handed.

It’s a film

that tries to be several things – a gangster film, a tragic love

story, while still being a Neo Realist film of the period. There is a hard

edged grittiness and grimy, matter of fact truthfulness. And the romance

between the black soldier and the broken down hooker fittingly avoids of any Hollywood

phoniness and fantasy (Then again back in 1948, the last thing Hollywood was making

were films about interracial romances).

Like

the film’s characters themselves, their romance is doomed from the start, but

they find, at least, some small sense of happiness and peace when they are

together.

However, the

central fascinating figure is the role of Jerry, who is played by, the now forgotten actor, John Kitzmiller, who I first wrote about three

years ago, on this site, and is still a subject of interest.

Born in Michigan

and a college graduate with a degree in engineering, Kitzmiller, no doubt, related to Jerry, since Kitzmiller himself, after fighting in Italy in the U.S. Army

during WWII (where he was awarded the Victory Medal), decided to stay in Italy, and eventually became an actor, appearing in over 50 films made mainly in

Italy, and a few in France, and the U.K. He even became the first black actor to

win the Best Actor prize at

the Cannes Film Festival, for the

film, Valley of Peace in 1957.

However, things

did not go well for Kitzmiller, who died relatively young at the age of 51 in 1965, due to cirrhosis of the liver, a condition almost always associated with

alcoholism. One can only surmise from this, that he never really found in Europe whatever happiness he

hoped to find away from the U.S.

So if you’ll be up late on Sunday night into Monday morning, check out Senza Pieta. It’ll be quite

a while before you have a chance to even see it again, and it’s worth your time.

Shadow and Act is a website dedicated to cinema, television and web content of Africa and its global Diaspora. With daily news, interviews, in-depth investigations into the audiovisual industry, and more, Shadow and Act promotes content created by and about people of African descent throughout the world.

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