The Gold of Naples (1954)

September 20, 2015 Leave a comment

A great movie with six vignettes about the place that the director, Vittorio de Sica, grew ip, Naples. In th first episode we see a clown, played by Toto, whose family is exploited by a former friend, and local big shoy, who has moved in to home and taken over.

In the second episode we see Sophia loren as an unfaithful wife who leaves her husband’s ring with her lover.

In the third episode we see a woman leading the procession through town at the funeral of her child.

We then see de Sica playing a Count, a degenerate gambler, who is reduced to playing with a young boy.

We then see a story about a prostitute, Teresa, who enters in to a marriage which is to say the least : unusual.

In the last vignette we see a local man, Ersilio Micci, who everyone comes to for advice. I think one thing that was really interesting was how one of his patrons gives him an orange to pay fro his advice. I was wondering if this an inspiration for Francis Ford Copola, where oranges were such a prominent part of the story.

The episodes were just great when taken together. Funny, poignant, and really entertaining. S great movie by the great director.

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Marriage Italian Style (1964)

A film much different than De Sica’s neorealist movies of a decade earlier. This movie was more like Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow, which he directed the year before and which also starred Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni

The film had drama, but the drama was always balanced by lighter moments. It has a a very different tone from the neorealist films of the immediate post-war years.

The movie starts out with Domenico having a flashback to the time he first met Filumena, and the good times they had after that.Then we find Filumena (Sophia Loren) on her death bed. Domenico Soriano (Mastroianni) who is preparing for his marriage to someone else is sent for. Filumena and Domenico have been together for years.  The next thing you know a priest is asking Domenico if he will take the dying Filumena’s hand in marriage and he is saying yes.The next thing you know they are married and Domenico is stunned.

After the marriage as Domenico tries to explain his whereabouts to his fiance, Filumena gets out of her death bed and tells Domenico that they are man and wife. Domenico has a fit and threatens to kill everyone. When the doctor comes to treat the stricken Domenico, Filumena has a flashback to earlier times. We see Filumena being called out to the country. She leaves her little with a family there and he is sick. We later find out she has two more young boys also.

Filumena tells Domenico that she has taken care of his businesses and his house for twenty-two years, and now that she is forty he wants to marry someone else. She tells him she has three children. When he asks who their fathers are she says “Men like you.” Filumena says she supported them and put them through school by stealing from Domenico all these years. The oldest is twenty now. Filumena wants a name to give to them so they won’t be ashamed.

Domenico tries to get the marriage annulled because he was tricked and Filumena agrees to it.

Filumena has the three boys over to the house. The boys don’t know what she wants with them. They do not know she is their mother. She has visited them all their lives, but they don’t know why. She tells them that they are her children.

Then Filumena tells Domenico that one of the three boys is his. He tries to guess which one, but she won’t tell him. Domenico keeps trying to figure it out, and finally falls back in love with Filumena. With the three boys present they get married.

A very good movie by Vittorio De Sica. He has considerably mellowed since the war years, but he still has the ability to look at the dark side of life. This movie was both comedic and dramatic, and that is not an easy thing to do, but the De Sica did it very well.

Umberto D (1952)

August 20, 2010 Leave a comment

“A mutt with intelligent eyes. White with brown spots. He ran away from home.” Umberto D

Such a simple story, such a wonderful movie! The movie opens with Umberto Domenico Ferrari and a group of government pensioners walking in a demonstration against the government, demanding a higher pensions. The demonstration is quickly broken up and we see that Umberto is really struggling to make ends meet. He lives with his dog Flike with his mean landlady Antonia and his friend, the young housekeeper Maria.
Umberto has trouble meeting the rent and Antonia is threatening to throw him into the streets. Umberto sells his books, tries to sell his watch and tries to stay in the clinic to save money.
The pathos that is created in this simple story is only matched by De Sica’s Bicycle Thieves. De Sica has the ability to make one feel that a lost dog or bicycle is a tragedy of epic proportions, and it is to the characters involved in his stories.
When Umberto gets out of the hospital Flike is missing. He starts to search all over for him. When he finds him at the pound, he is thrilled, but he still has to deal with losing his apartment. Too proud to beg, he hints to old friends about his plight but keeps his dignity. In a scene out of a Chaplin movie, but without the humor, he tries to beg but can’t hold out his hand. For him begging to stay alive is a moral dilemma, like Antonio’s decision to steal in the Bicycle Thieves. He then tries to teach Flica to hold the beggar’s hat.
Ultimately Umberto gets tired of it all. Better to die with dignity than live in disgrace. He tries to find a place for Flica to stay in a pet boarding house, but decides that Flica would have to live without dignity chained up. He decides to take Flike with him as he ends his life. 
De Sica was a genius who had the ability to put us in the place of the ordinary man who is overwhelmed by the living life a in poverty, through no fault of his own. Antonio (from Bicycle Thieves) and Umberto have lived their lives the way they should, but they still can’t make it. De Sica shows how unfair life can be for the common man.
Eventually it is Flike who saves Umberto’s life, but as Umberto and Flike fade from the screen we still worry about what the future will hold for them.
A great, great movie.

Two Women (1960)

August 18, 2010 Leave a comment

Cesira (Sophia Loren ) and her 13-year-old daughter, Rosetta, flee from the allied bombs in Rome during the second world war. Cesira heads home to the town she was born in. Retreating German soldiers and advancing Americans both go by the village.
Cesira’s friend Michele (Jean-Paul Belmondo) gets taken by the Germans to help guide them. As the bombing in Rome has stopped, Cesira and Roseta head back to Rome where it is now safer.
While staying over in a church they Cesira and Rosetta get violently raped by Moroccan soldiers “under the eyes of the Madona.” They have “ruined her little daughter forever.” It takes a while, but Roseta slowly begins to recover and bonds again with her mother.
What keeps the movie from being great is that Cesira is miserable throughout the whole movie. She is just a bitter sad woman. The tragedy that befalls her dosn’t really seem to change her that much. Sophia Loren was great, however, and deservedly won a Best Actress Oscar for her efforts.

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Bicycle Thieves (1948)

August 6, 2010 Leave a comment

Without a doubt one of the best movies ever made. A neo-realistic tragedy showing the bad economic times in post-war Italy. Antonio Ricci is struggling to support his family and is thrilled when he gets a job for the city hanging posters, but the job requires that he has a bike. His wife hocks the family sheets to get Antonio’s bike out of hock.
Antonio starts working and the whole family is thrilled when the unthinkable happens – Antonio’s bike gets stolen. Most of the rest of the movie involves Antonio and his son searching for the stolen bike. They eventually find the thief but have no luck getting the bike back.
With his back against the wall Antonio does something completely out of character – he steals a bike. He is caught but the victim, seeing his son, takes pity on Antonio and lets him go.
The movie ends with Antonio and his son walking stunned down the street.
Great, great movie.

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The Children Are Watching Us (1948)

July 31, 2010 Leave a comment

Little Prico really is watching what is going on. He sees his mother, Nina, as she talks to her lover at the park. When Nina leaves her husband is devastated and Prico soon finds out. People talk in front of Prico like he’s not there, but he knows. As the adults battle, he is the one that suffers.
Nina comes back home but her boyfriend follows and Prico again is in the middle. Nina and Dad reconcile and take a holiday and all is well. When Dad returns to work the boyfriend moves in again. While the boyfriend and Nina kiss on the beach, Prico watches. Prico, like the audience, has had enough of the mother’s infidelities. He tries to buy a train ticket home to his father. When he is unsuccessful he runs away.
When Prico and Nina come home from the vacation, Prico is sent on alone in to the apartment. The father and son are again devastated.
When Prico’s dad puts him in a boarding school, the priest says : “Don’t worry. We’ll be like a family to him.” The sad father replies : “That’s exactly what he needs … a family.”
The next scene shows people gathering around the “tragedy” : the father’s death which was probably a suicide. When Nina comes to the boarding school to get Prico he turns his back on her and walks away, just like she had done to the family.
In the middle of these series of dramatic scenes De Sica puts in elements of light comedy to help move the narrative entertainingly along.
A very sad, very good neo-realistic film from Vittorio De Sica.

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