Umberto D. (1952)

Vittorio De Sica directs Carlo Battisti, Maria-Pia Casilio and Alina Gennari in this Italian Neo-Realist classic where a pensioner faces poverty and destitution when his landlady decides she want him and his little dog out of her apartment.

A cute dog movie I’ve avoided over years. Who wants to see a lovely mutt caught in the grinding cogs of uncaring capitalist ‘progress’? Of course that is just one of the ironies that De Sica is playing with here. Why do we care more about a pet falling through societies cracks than we do a man who has worked and lived with dignity all his life? A brutishly sentimental film with moments of astounding beauty. Non-actor Carlo Battisti gives one the great ‘one time only’ lead performances. He sells Umberto’s humanity, frustration and desperation with a stoic magic. His relationship with his little dog is hope personified. The turns their situation take do lurch into uncomfortable darkness and the film offers no real solution to their plight. Running parallel is the story of his landlady’s maid. A child with her own financial ruin pending. A sequence where she wakes up and sets up the kitchen for the day in silence, tears in her eyes, has to be one of the finest moments in arthouse cinema.


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