Rossellini's History Films: Renaissance and Enlightenment [Criterion Collection] [DVD]

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Blaise Pascal
Blaise Pascal was one of several historical films directed by Robert Rossellini for Italian television in the late 1960s to early 1970s. The film covers the life of 17th century French philosopher Blaise Pascal, from age 17 to his death, at 39, in 1662. Much is made of the agnostic Pascal's prophetic musings, notably his plans to create a calculating machine and a "rapid transit" system (involving horse-drawn busses), and his controversial theory of The Vacuum. After a lifetime of fighting religious intolerance, Pascal professes his belief in God on his deathbed. Pierre Arditi plays the title role in the 131-minute Blaise Pascal, which was written by Rossellini, Marcella Mariani, and Luciano Scaffa. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Originally a two-part mini-series for Italian television, this biopic of the philosopher René Descartes can be seen as the third part of an informal trilogy on 17th century France from director Roberto Rossellini alongside his The Rise of Louis XIV (1966) and Blaise Pascal (1971). The film dramatizes the scientific interests of Descartes (Ugo Cardea), with the philosopher arguing theories about the circulatory system at a medical dissection and being instructed in the wonders of the newly invented telescope by Constantin Huygens (Renato Montalbano) and the astronomer Ciprus (Vernon Dobtcheff). His more personal side is revealed in his relationship with his servant Elena (Anne Pouchie), whom he makes pregnant only to refuse to openly acknowledge the child. The film ends with the death of his daughter, after which Descartes retreats completely within himself. ~ Nicole Gagne, Rovi

The Age of the Medici
Criticized as an indulgent and pompous directorial farce, this is really just a slight vehicle in which the lives of artists Cosimo de Medici and Leon Alberti are catalogued in an effort to portray the Renaissance art of Italy from the 1400s. The four hours are an excellent showing of the evolution of Italian Renaissance Art, but there is essentially no plot and critics have suggested that the time might better be spent in a tour of an art gallery to see the actual pieces. ~ Tana Hobart, Rovi

Cast & Crew

  • Giuseppe Addobbati
    Giuseppe Addobbati
  • Pierre Arditi
    Pierre Arditi
  • Image coming soon
    Mario Bardella
  • Image coming soon
    Rita Forzano
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