Il partigiano Johnny (Johnny the Partisan) (2000)
Director: Guido Chiesa.
Starring: Stefano Dionisi (Johnny), Andrea Prodan (Pierre), Fabrizio Gifuni (Ettore), Giuseppe Cederna (Nemega), Alberto Gimignani (Biondo), Claudio Amendola (Nord), Stefano Scherini (Vico), Chiara Muti (Rlda), Umberto Orsini (Pinin), Barbara Lerici (Sonia).
Germans occupy Italy after September 8, 1943, Italian soldiers head to the hills to set up a resistance movement
Spoiler Warning: below is a summary of the entire film.
"The government of Italy, to prevent further suffering for the nation, has requested an armistice from General Eisenhower. The request has been granted. . . . We know you will; do everything in your power to help us crush Hitler sand the Fascists. . . . Fascists, Italian men and women, after a long silence, I can now speak to you again".
Officers and Fascists, the fight is win or die! Win or die! We'll prove how united we are, Italians and Germans fighting with a single purpose: the triumph of Nazi Fascism! Any member of the former Italian army who refuses to answer the call-up will be considered a rebel and will face the firing squad."
Part I. Autumn.
Italian men walking along the street pass a sign saying: "Death Penalty for Deserters". One of the men in line tries to escape down an alleyway but he is shot down by someone with a a sub-machine gun. The body just lays there and is seen by others passing by the alley way.
A man watches as his father comef walking up to the house. He observes: "How old my father is getting!" The man says he has not left the house for a month. He is hiding, but is also very tired of hiding. His father comes in and gives him the newspaper. The newspaper says: "Mussolini sets up new fascist government." Dad tells his son: "They killed your friend Rivella. The were taking him to Germany."
Another young Italian man, named Johnny, comes in to see his mother and father. Mother asks him why didn't he stay up in the hills? He has to study. The son asks, banging the table with his hand: "How can anyone study at a time like this?" He leaves the room. He goes outside and walks in the streets. He runs into four guys he knows talking together. One of the fellows is Vico. Another is Alessandro. They ask if Johnny has heard about Rivella? Two other men join them. They are a bit older than the five guys gathered together. One of them is Professor Cocito. He tells Johnny that he heard from Chlodl that it was a miracle that Johnny got back from Rome. Johnny replies that he fled when all the other guys fled the barracks.
The young fellows want to inflict some real pain on the Fascists in Alba. The professor asks the the fellows are willing to kill the Fascists? He also asks if the fathers of the fellows were Fascist, would they shoot them? The other older man says that it's not enough just to want to be a partisan because every partisan must be politically aware. The two older men tells the young guys that they better be careful. The two older men leave them.
Ettore tells the other guys that he wants to go to a brothel. Johnny doesn't want to go. He is still shocked a bit about finding oiut that Professor Cocitio is a communist.
Johnny sees a bunch of young guys, some with weapons in their hands, going back and forth across a big square. He stops one of the guys and asks him what's going on? The fellow tells him that they have arrested the fathers of the deserters. Johnny goes with them. They go to the police (the carabinieri) station and ask with a megaphone to let the prisoners go. A policemen fires an automatic weapon at the crowd and they back up. An older man grabs the megaphone to tell the police that they can't be intimidate by machine guns, because, as partisans, they also have machine guns too.
A policeman comes out and the man with the megaphone tells him that if they don't come out, they are going to bomb the whole station. So the policemen come out with their hands up. A big hurrah wells up out of the crowd.
In the morning Johnny sits at the breakfast table with his father while mom washes the dishes. The padre, Don Mario, comes over to the apartment. He comes in and tells the family that they had better hide out for awhile. Can they still used the Broglio house up in the hills? He tells Johnny's father that the Fascists have made a list and father is fifth on that list. Because father is a socialist. And the police recognized Johnny at the police station and the carabinieri are after him too.
Johnny tells Professor Ciocitio that he is heading back up into the hills. From somewhere, Johnny gets a gun. He leaves a note for his parents. He walks up into the mountains until he finds where the partisans are at. He tells them that he wants to be a partisan.
Part II. Mombarcaro.
The partisans tell Johnny to get on the back of a truck with the other partisan fighters.
At dinner, a friend tells Johnny to come with him or he will be chosen for guard duty. The friend lays down on a mat of hay and puts hay over him. He tells Johnny to do the same because it gets cold here. Johnny tells him: "I can look after myself, I was in the army." Johnny lays down on the hay. He asks the friend if he is a communist and he says, no, he's just against the fascists.
In the morning Johnny walks around the town. He goes into a room and meets Lt. Biondo and comrade Nemega. Nemega asks Johnny if he studies English literature? Johnny says yes, and Nemega tells him that Johnny is just the fellow they were looking for. Nemega wants to start a newspaper soon where they can explain the basic concepts of Marxism to the farmers. Johnny tells the man that he wants to be holding a rifle and fighting.
Firing is heard. The men get into the back of the truck and head out to where they can get a good position from which to shoot at the Fascists. When they see the Fascists, they open fire on them. Most of the Fascists start running for safety, but Johnny is able to kill one of the Fascists who decides to stay and fight. This inspires some of the Fascists to get revenge for their wounded comrade. They open fire and the partisans take off running to safety.
Johnny is back in town. He gives the lieutenant one of his cigarettes. He goes and sits down on the street. He says he's one of them now.
Tito and Johnny walk through the woods with a young fellow who got to take Mario's submachine gun. The guy says he wants to fire a burst, because he has never done it before. Tito tells him no, but the fellow does it anyway. Tito just shakes his head concerning the hot-head. And it's not the hot-head who is shot by the enemy. Rather Tito is hit in the back and goes down. Johnny runs away to fight another day.
The truck takes Tito's body to the town. They lay the body in the middle of the street. Lt. Biondo says the enemy skinned Tito. He wants everyone to come and have a look at poor Tito.
The next day the partisans get some ammunition from a place across the street from a police station. Some policemen fire on the partisans. The lieutenant has his men return fire. Then a white flag is brought out. The lieutenant tells the police to come out, but to first send out their commander. The commander walks up to the partisans and Lt. Biondo shoots him dead. This upsets Johnny and he objects that the police officer was surrendering to them. One of the partisans tells Johnny: "The more you study, the less you understand." The lieutenant says that the police commander had killed one of his partisans under similar circumstances.
The truck heads down a road when a German squad car crashes into the truck. The partisans capture the men in the car and will use them as hostages. One of the hostages appears to be a high-ranking German officer.
At night the men see a huge convoy headed up the mountain. Lt. Biondo says that's too many Germans for them to handle. Nemega tells the men to split up into squads of six to seven. They will leave the German hostages behind, and alive! They will all gather together tomorrow at the Lovera. Johnny goes with Lt. Biondo.
In the morning, Biondo's squad hears the sound of German guns in the mountains. Biondo says they will get behind the Germans, for they would never expect them to do that. Foolishly, Biondo leaves the cover of the forest to expose themselves in an open field. The Germans open up on the small squad. Biondo is hit at least twice. Johnny drops his weapon and runs down into a small ravine to get away from the firing. A little later the Germans throw grenades down into the ravine. Johnny goes into the forest.
A partisan comes up and Johnny asks him why is he following him? The fellow says because he doesn't know where the Lovera is. Johnny points for the man to follow the path to the right. He, meanwhile, takes off across an open field. The fellows asks Johnny if he's going home, but Johnny doesn't answer him.
Johnny goes back to the town and asks for Nord. Nord is happy to see him because, he says, Ettore told him about the university student who knows how to speak English. He then asks Johnny why did he join in on Nemega's group? Johnny says it was the first group of partisans he ran into. Going back to the subject of speaking English, Nord says that if Johnny really knows how to speak English he will be invaluable to them because the Allies will be parachuting liaison officers into the area. He then says he's putting Johnny in with Lt. Pierre. Johnny will be second in command.
Part III. Spring.
The new partisans are being trained by Michele , who was a sergeant in Africa and is very good. The guy is a Sicilian and hasn't been back home since 1940. Johnny asks Lt. Pierre way doesn't he himself train the new recruits? Pierre says he's a pilot and gets queasy down here on the ground.
The unit has a little party. There are quite a few women there with them.
In the morning Johnny walks out into a huge field. He goes down by a stream and hangs out for awhile.
Ettore drives up in a fancy automobile and stops to speak with Johnny. He says he was going to Santo Stefano. Johnny goes with him. There in the square the place is covered with partisans and quite a few of them have women with them. Ettore tells Johnny to let him do the talking with the women. Johnny agrees, but before they can have any success, the partisans are told that there is a Fascist attack coming. The Partisans jump onto the backs of the many trucks.
Pierre says that they are going to take the town of Alba. Johnny's job will be to attack the seminary there that the Fascists use as a barracks. At night the men get into place near the seminary and then open fire through its windows. After a short while, Johnny tells his men to withdraw. One of his soldiers rushes toward the seminary firing wildly and he gets hit. Now the men have to carry the fellow on a stretcher. The wounded fellow dies.
Nord tells Johnny that there is going to be a peaceful evacuation of the Fascists.
Part IV. October 10.
Johnny says that this occupation of Alba by the partisans is not good. It's obvious the people are afraid to be hosts to so many partisans. Johnny runs into his old friend Alessandro. He tells Alessandro that this is the first town freed in Northern Italy. Johnny goes home and sees his mother. Then dad comes in and greets Johnny. Dad has some bad news for Johnny. He says that they killed Professor Cocito. "They hung him up on a butcher's meat hook."
When Johnny returns to be with the partisans, he is told that he will be guarding the river bank by the Gambadilegno farmhouse. In the morning, the men go down to the farmhouse. They build up a wall of stone and dirt along the riverbank. Some of the fellows says the Fascists could never cross the river here.
The men by the riverbank are being soaked by the constant rain downpours. They can't wait for the battle to start and stop so they can get out of the rain. There are some negotiations with the Fascists, but nothing can be worked out with them.
Down by the riverside, Johnny and the partisans realize that the Fascists have already gotten over the river, just not near them. The rush over to a ditch and take up their positions. Soon the firing starts between the two groups. Michele is killed. Johnny marches his men away from the battlefield. In town he tells the men that they are going back up into the hills. Trying to get up and over the hills, in the rain the men keep sliding back down hill. Even Johnny has a hell of a time making any progress.
Part V. Autumn.
Ettore comes walking down the road. He sees Johnny and tells him: "That bitch in the grocery store mad me lose my appetite." She told him to keep his money, like he was a beggar.
Ettore tells Johnny that they are invited to a party given by a girl from Turin. At night they go to the party. There the two men meet Elda. Johnny and Elda dance. She says that the civilians are dying of boredom. She likes Johnny and goes to kiss him. But Johnny starts to say he swore not to get involved while the war was still going on. She says that this might be Johnny's last chance.
A partisan yells at the sleeping partisans: "The British are dropping supplies!" Twenty planes are involved. The biggest parachute drop ever in the area! Then they hear the sounds that come from the German soldiers firing their weapons. Now they see the first of the refugees moving out of Alba. The refugees pass right by where Johnny and Pierre are standing. One man yells that he saw two partisans hung up by the Germans back there.
At night a messenger tells Pierre that Nord wants him to go to the Langa farmhouse. "The Germans will be here tomorrow." Johnny goes with Pierre. He runs into Elda and she says she has a place where she can hide Johnny. Johnny tells her to go home. She gives him some cigarettes and then runs for home. Pierre and Johnny plus some other partisans gets some good food for their dinner prepared by a local woman.
In the morning the men are walking along at path, when the Germans open up on them. The partisans retreat downhill. The men keeps going to get to Nord. But then they see building burning where Nord would be. Ettore says: "There goes Nord!"
As the partisans move on, a partisan comes rushing down the hill in front of them shouting for them to get out of here! They all run. The newcomer is called Blister. He says they can all go to Bormida and the people there will take them in.
The men are exhausted . They take a short break on the side of a steep hill. Johnny and Ettore keep walking and suddenly realize that it is Bormida straight ahead of them and the village is being attacked.
The next day the start walking again. "They run into a large group of German soldiers. The men take cover. Then Johnny tells the partisans to come with him. They go downhill and get behind a group of Italian soldiers. Then they suddenly jump back into the woods. The four men congratulate each other and start waling again. And now they run into a whole line of German soldiers heading their way. The partisans run for their lives. They get away, but after awhile they don't see Blister anymore.
The three men cross a river on a raft. They take refuge in a barn.
Part VI. Winter.
Johnny, Ettore and Pierre go for a walk. They run into some Fascists and Pierre is hit and goes down. After the Fascists move on, Johnny returns to check on Pierre. But when Johnny returns to where they are staying he finds both Ettore and Pierre alive and well. The guys have a terrific laugh at Johnny's shocked reaction.
(The subtitle option stopped working for me! Damn!)
Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.
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