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Italy 1952
Directed by
Vittorio De Sica
88 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3 stars

Umberto D

Made four years after The Bicycle Thieves (1946), the most iconic of all Italian Neo-realist films, Umberto D is highly praised in some quarters although it arguably is as much Chaplinesque sentimentality as social criticism, and the ending is more irresolute than confrontational.

Carlo Battisti (in real life a university lecturer and non-professional actor), plays Umberto Domenico Ferrari, an upright retired civil servant on a meagre income who is struggling to survive the rapacity and indifference of those around him, his landlady (Lina Gennari) representing the former, old work colleagues, the latter. His only companions are a young pregnant maid (Maria Pia Casilio, another non-professional) in the rooming house from which he is about to be ejected and his dog, Flike.

Penned by the director's regular collaborator, Cesare Zavattini, in narrative terms very little happens although De Sica wrings every drop of pathos from the situation as the old man, accompanied by his faithful mutt struggles to survive with dignity in the face of the indignities heaped upon him. It is a well-made, albeit slight, film, nicely photographed by G.R. Aldo who had shot de Sica's previous film,Miracle in Milan (1951).  It was not commercially successful however and was the last that De Sica made in the style before moving on to his more lavish historical works.

DVD Extras: New restored print; audio commentary by Dr. Gino Moliterno. Head of Film Studies, ANU; a scholarly essay by Peter Kemp, lecturer in Cinema Studies, RMIT and the original theatrical trailer

Available from: Madman




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