``

Film Series / Events

Search All Film Series (1999-present)
Browse All Film Series

June 5 - June 14

Vittorio De Sica – Neo-Realism, Melodrama, Fantasy

One of the most influential and talented directors of the postwar Italian cinema, Vittorio De Sica (1902-1974) is credited as a progenitor of the neorealist movement that radically reshaped the cinematic landscape in Europe and beyond. De Sica’s early films defined the quintessence of neorealism by transforming their necessarily small budgets into an aesthetic creed, a commitment to working with nonprofessional actors, shooting on location using available lighting, and encouraging intense character exploration and improvisation. Guided by the intelligent and rigorously structured screenplays of his frequent and most important collaborator, Cesare Zavattini, De Sica’s major films - The Children Are Watching Us, Shoeshine, Miracle in Milan and, of course, Umberto D. and The Bicycle Thieves - are preoccupied with urgent social and political topics facing postwar Italy – poverty and the hardscrabble life of the streets, intergenerational estrangement, and the sense of general moral decay and vacuity cast by the dark shadow of the Fascist regime.  

De Sica’s extraordinary rapport with actors grew from his own career as a popular matinee idol and star of sophisticated comedies in the 1930s, a background which also informed the glamorous sheen and light comic touches which became increasingly prominent in his cinema. Compared to the meteoric critical and popular success of his early films, De Sica’s work in the 1960s was less favorably received until the comeback marked by The Garden of the Finzi-Continis. Although De Sica is celebrated today as one of the great Italian directors, important major works featured in this selective retrospective such as Miracle in Milan, Shoeshine and The Gold of Naples remain all too rarely seen.  

Special thanks: Jen Alpert; Liborio Stellino, Consul General of Italy in Boston.

Read a review of the series in the Wall St. Journal here and in the Boston Phoenix here.

Browse Other Series from this Season
Return to Top

Saturday June 5 at 7pm

Shoeshine (Sciuscia)

Directed by Vittorio De Sica.
With Rinaldo Smordoni, Franco Interlenghi, Anniello Mele
Italy 1946, 35mm, b/w, 93 min. Italian with English subtitles

De Sica’s heart-wrenching portrait of two impoverished shoeshine boys uses the ever-present Allied soldiers and bombed ruins as a constant reminder of the still reverberating devastation of war. De Sica and Zavattini’s interest in symbols and, increasingly, fantasy, is legible in the figure of the horse that becomes the boys’ sole source of happiness and, almost simultaneously, despair. Rarely screened today, Shoeshine stands with Bunuel’s Los Olvidados as one the great films about children.

Browse Other Series from this Season
Return to Top

Saturday June 5 at 9pm

The Gold of Naples (L’oro di Napoli)

Directed by Vittorio De Sica.
With Totò, Sophia Loren, Silvana Mangano Italy 1954, 35mm, b/w, 107 min. Italian with English subtitles

In this delightful episodic comedy about Naples, De Sica pays tribute to the city where he spent his childhood. Loosely structured around four short vignettes and featuring some of Italian cinema’s biggest stars – including De Sica as an upper-class gambler - this anthology showcases the lyric beauty of Naples and De Sica’s evident love for its people and places while subtly plumbing the depths of the human heart.

Browse Other Series from this Season
Return to Top

Sunday June 6 at 7pm

The Children Are Watching Us (I bambini ci guardano)

Directed by Vittorio De Sica.
With Luciano De Ambrosis, Isa Pola, Emilio Cigoli
Italy 1943, 35mm, b/w, 85 min. Italian with English subtitles

A searing portrayal of familial disintegration vividly told from the perspective of a five-year-old abandoned by his mother, De Sica’s proto-neorealist masterpiece foregrounds a thematic concern that recurs throughout his oeuvre – the troubled distance between children and adults as an echo of a dysfunctional society destabilized by fascism and war. As a vital witness to the callousness and ingratitude pervasive throughout society, the young boy’s struggle to ascribe moral values to the world offers both an indictment and an ambiguous vision of hope.

Browse Other Series from this Season
Return to Top

Sunday June 6 at 9pm

Shoeshine (Sciuscia)

Directed by Vittorio De Sica.
With Rinaldo Smordoni, Franco Interlenghi, Anniello Mele
Italy 1946, 35mm, b/w, 93 min. Italian with English subtitles

De Sica’s heart-wrenching portrait of two impoverished shoeshine boys uses the ever-present Allied soldiers and bombed ruins as a constant reminder of the still reverberating devastation of war. De Sica and Zavattini’s interest in symbols and, increasingly, fantasy, is legible in the figure of the horse that becomes the boys’ sole source of happiness and, almost simultaneously, despair. Rarely screened today, Shoeshine stands with Bunuel’s Los Olvidados as one the great films about children.

Browse Other Series from this Season
Return to Top

Monday June 7 at 7pm

The Garden of the Finzi-Continis

Directed by Vittorio De Sica.
With Dominique Sanda, Lino Capolicchio, Helmut Berger
Italy 1970, 35mm, color, 93 min. Italian with English subtitles

The story of a wealthy Jewish family willfully shut off from the rest of the world and in reckless denial of fascism’s hold on the Italian people, The Garden of the Finzi-Continis is narrated by Giorgio, a frequent guest of the family and the only one who foresees the impending and unstoppable forces that will shatter their cloistered world. Combining luminous flashbacks with the present, the film’s structure resembles De Sica’s own comeback: the once great director who was written off in the 1960’s re-emerges out of the past with this late, luxuriant masterpiece.

Browse Other Series from this Season
Return to Top

Friday June 11 at 7pm

Miracle in Milan (Miracolo a Milano)

Directed by Vittorio De Sica.
With Emma Gramatica, Francesco Golisano, Paolo Stoppa
Italy 1951, 35mm, 96 min. Italian with English subtitles

An off-beat and entrancing entry in De Sica’s neorealist canon, Miracle in Milan is an extraordinary fable that bends towards magic realism to imagine a place where society’s most downtrodden can find purchase and possible escape from misery. Set within a fantastically theatrical shantytown, Miracle in Milan constructs an alternate world from De Sica and Zavattini’s fascination with marginalized perspectives. One of De Sica’s unsung masterpieces, Miracle in Milan’s unusual use of deliberate artifice and spectacle rekindles the Meliesian, magical aura of early cinema.

Browse Other Series from this Season
Return to Top

Please note schedule change: Indiscretion of an American Wife will screen in place of Terminal Station
Friday June 11 at 9pm

Indiscretion of an American Wife

Directed by Vittorio De Sica.
With Jennifer Jones, Montgomery Clift, Gino Cervi
US/Italy 1953, 35mm, b/w, 64 min.

American producer David O. Selznick commissioned a film from De Sica and Zavattini to star his wife Jennifer Jones, perhaps in the hope of emulating the string of films by Rossellini starring Ingrid Bergman. Zavattini crafted a touching story of an American woman in a loveless marriage who has an affair while on vacation in Italy, but Selznick nevertheless rejected the 90-minute film that De Sica made. Instead, he had it cut by more than twenty minutes and re-edited the rest to look more like a standard Hollywood star vehicle, with a (very) slightly racier script, breaking up De Sica’s long takes by inserting close-ups and snipping out shots meant to give a more detailed sense of the milieu in and around Rome’s then-new Terminal Station. Much of the original’s length was lost by lopping off the opening sequence in which Jones’ character goes to the apartment of her lover (Montgomery Clift) for a rendezvous but flees to the station without seeing him. The loss of this sequence removes much of the evidence of her character’s hesitation between her lover and her husband. What remains of De Sica’s film is a fascinating hybrid with moving performances by both Jones and Clift.

Browse Other Series from this Season
Return to Top

Saturday June 12 at 7pm

Umberto D.

Directed by Vittorio De Sica.
With Carlo Battisti, Maria Pia Casilio, Lina Gennari
Italy 1952, 35mm, b/w, 89 min. Italian with English subtitles

A powerful diary of loneliness and old age written by the palsied hand of slow suffering, Umberto D. tells the story of an elderly man struggling for dignity and survival in a society indifferent to the needs of its frailest members. Cruelly marginalized and eventually forced onto the streets, with only his dog for companionship, Umberto is victim to an impersonal, uncaring state and a petty, hardhearted society. With minimal dialogue and a small cast of nonprofessionals, De Sica uses Carlo Battisti’s devastating performance as Umberto, the atmospheric streets of Rome and G.R. Aldo’s brilliantly crepuscular cinematography to etch an emotionally resonant portrait of societal breakdown as a quiet yet terrifyingly absolute disintegration.

Browse Other Series from this Season
Return to Top

Saturday June 12 at 9pm

After the Fox (Caccia alla volpe)

Directed by Vittorio De Sica.
With Peter Sellers, Britt Ekland, Victor Mature
Italy 1966, 35mm, color, 103 min.

De Sica’s late comedy shines with a witty screenplay co-written by Neil Simon and a playful film-within-a-film structure with a hilarious Peter Sellers at its center. Although seemingly an unlikely project for De Sica, After the Fox returned to his roots in sophisticated comedy, where he is able to cleverly manipulate milieu and story – a band of thieves smuggling gold from Cairo – into a biting satire of a fluttering, superficial world of disguises and postures. With a wickedly funny turn by Victor Mature as an aging, egotistical actor and its affectionate skewering of narcissistic directors – including De Sica himself in a cameo – After the Fox is a biting repart to the decadence of the 1960s Italian film industry.

Browse Other Series from this Season
Return to Top

Sunday June 13 at 7pm

The Bicycle Thieves (Ladri di biciclette)

Directed by Vittorio De Sica.
With Lamberto Maggiorani, Enzo Staiola, Lianella Carell
Italy 1948, 35mm, b/w, 87 min. Italian with English subtitles

De Sica’s best known film and a foundational work of the neorealist movement, The Bicycle Thieves uses nonprofessional actors and incredible location shooting on the streets of a war-ravaged Rome to tell the gripping story of a downtrodden man whose quest to reclaim a stolen bicycle sends him on a spellbinding tour through the city’s working class neighborhoods with his young yet wise son. A heartbreaking work of redemption and hope in the face of overwhelming despair, The Bicycle Thieves is a richly insightful examination of the human condition.

Browse Other Series from this Season
Return to Top

Sunday June 13 at 9pm

Miracle in Milan (Miracolo a Milano)

Directed by Vittorio De Sica.
With Emma Gramatica, Francesco Golisano, Paolo Stoppa
Italy 1951, 35mm, 96 min. Italian with English subtitles

An off-beat and entrancing entry in De Sica’s neorealist canon, Miracle in Milan is an extraordinary fable that bends towards magic realism to imagine a place where society’s most downtrodden can find purchase and possible escape from misery. Set within a fantastically theatrical shantytown, Miracle in Milan constructs an alternate world from De Sica and Zavattini’s fascination with marginalized perspectives. One of De Sica’s unsung masterpieces, Miracle in Milan’s unusual use of deliberate artifice and spectacle rekindles the Meliesian, magical aura of early cinema.


Browse Other Series from this Season
Return to Top

Monday June 14 at 7pm

Two Women (La Ciociara)

Directed by Vittorio De Sica.
With Sophia Loren, Jean-Paul Belmondo, Eleonora Brown
Italy 1960, 35mm, b/w, 105 min. Italian with English subtitles

A heartbreaking story of survival during WWII, a preternaturally beautiful Sophia Loren stars as a young widow returning to her native village, fleeing Rome and the Allied bombings with her teenage daughter. An operatic and devastatingly intense story of family ties and societal hypocrisy, Two Women is one of the greatest film melodramas of all time. When the small town proves no safer than the city, both mother and daughter must reach far deeper into the well of human suffering than seemingly imaginable.


Browse Other Series from this Season
Return to Top
Harvard Film Archive • Carpenter Center • 24 Quincy Street • Cambridge MA 02138 • 617-495-4700