Archive for Vittorio De Sica


Posted in FILM with tags , , on May 23, 2020 by dcairns


I feel kinda guilty but also relieved that work has been flowing in more steadily than usual during this thing. My latest video essay, Money Has Been My Ruin, tells the story of Vittorio De Sica and is an extra on Arrow Academy’s new release of BICYCLE THIEVES, a substantial upgrade transferred from the original camera negative.

I like it when I’m unqualified for a job and have to research it — I think those circs result in some of my better pieces. With this one I had seen relatively little De Sica and was way behind on my neorealist viewing generally, but it incentivised me to catch up. Fortunately I had made inroads already…

And it was all worth it just to uncover this still:



The Underclass Goes to Heaven

Posted in FILM with tags , , , on April 18, 2020 by dcairns

I now wish I’d seen MIRACLE IN MILAN (directed by Vittorio De Sica, written by Cesare Zavattini) as a kid. Seeing it as an adult, though I was charmed and impressed by much of it, I had the words of Luis Bunuel (in paraphrase) running through my head on a ticker tape: “What is the incentive to get out of poverty if to be poor is to be so noble? Social injustice corrupts on every level — the rich are better able to protect themselves from it.”

Of course one could argue that if a film asks you to believe in a magic, wish-granting dove from heaven, believing in the virtuous residents of a shanty town shouldn’t be too hard. It’s a fable, and doesn’t even take seriously its own fantastic rules.

My two favourite jokes involved human beings used as props, and are arguably too similar to belong in the same film. The rich man, Mr. Mobbi, has a guy in unform hung from his window to keep him notified as to which way the wind is blowing.

And a poor family have attached a cord to their baby, said cord leading to outside the door. Visitors pulls the string to make the baby give out a notification of their arrival.

“Answer the door, the baby’s flying!”

Having failed to see it as a kid, I should certainly have seen it in Bologna, restored, where the crowd reaction might have crushed my inner Bunuelian cynic.

Neapolitan Flavour

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , on August 1, 2019 by dcairns

Among the many things I missed in Bologna was the screening, as part of the fairly exhaustive Eduardo de Filippo retrospective, of his chapter of the portmanteau film GOLD OF NAPLES, directed by Vittorio De Sica. But Fiona saw it and liked it and so we watched the whole thing the other day.

It’s great, of course. It might even cause me to re-evaluate VDS’s WOMAN TIMES SEVEN, which I found weirdly pointless. But the stories in GOLD are nearly all “pointless” in a way, and certainly none of them wraps up in a neat conclusion that makes you go “Ah-ha!”

More like “Huh?”

But in a good way.

It’s an all-star affair (Alessandro Blasetti inaugurated this kind of thing with ALTRI TEMPI and TEMPI NOSTRI, both of which Vittorio was in), produced by De Laurentiis and Ponti and featuring their wives, Sophia Loren and Silvana Mangano (who gets the meatier part). Also appearing are Toto and his amazing performing chin, but De Sica himself gives the best performance, alongside a wee boy rejoicing in the name of Pierino Bilancioni. They play cards together, De Sica (a real-life gambling addict — thanks, David E) loses comprehensively, and he’s a lousy loser. That’s basically their whole story. The little boy doesn’t even want to play cards, he listens poignantly to the sound of his chums playing in the street, but De Sica’s count insists, and the kid’s dad is an employee.

At the end, having trounced his director through a whole series of hilarious reaction shots, and refused to admit to being lucky (“The cards know their master,” he shrugs, infuriatingly) he sits alone, bedecked with the cards his aging opponent has flung at him, then picks up a kitten by the scruff of the neck and cradles it tenderly. It’s such an odd, inappropriate ending to a piece that could easily have ended with him running out to play in the streets (which would have MADE SENSE and CONNECTED) that I had to consider it superior to any logical or organic conclusion.

Then there’s the very funny Felippo episode in which he teaches disgruntled neighbours how to blow a raspberry, and an episode showing a hearse bear a child’s body towards the cemetery. We see it leave, we never see it arrive, and that’s essentially it. The clip-clop of the horse’s hooves becomes hypnotic, the tight cluster of smartly turned out tinies parade through sidestreets and then along the main coastal road — and there’s one stunningly bold visual gag as we pass a window and see through a window a furiously rowing couple, who stop to cross themselves, one after the other, as they notice the procession, then get back to screaming and flinging imprecations at one another.

De Sica, on form, is hard to beat — the closest successor to Chaplin there’s been.