Friday, May 19, 2017

2017 Cannes Marathon: Umberto D.

(Played in Competition for the Palme d’Or at the 1952 Cannes Film Festival)

Directed by Vittorio de Sica and screenplay by de Sica and Cesare Zavattini from a story by Zavattini, Umberto D. is the story of an elderly man who is trying to keep his rented room as he faces eviction as he struggles to find people who would help him. The film is a look into the life of a man dealing with the post-war boom of Italy where modernism has took over. Starring Carlo Battisti, Maria Pia Casilio, Lina Gennari, Memmo Carotenuto, and Napoleone as the dog Flike. Umberto D. is a touching and rapturous film from Vittorio de Sica.

Set entirely in Rome during the post-war years, the film revolves an elderly man who learns he’s being kicked out of his apartment room by his landlord as he struggles to get help after learning about the state of his pension. With his dog Flike at his side, Umberto Domenico Ferrari (Carlo Battisti) copes with the little money he has as well as struggling to deal with the promises of the post-war as he’s unable to get work despite working with the government for 30 years. The film’s screenplay by Vittorio de Sica and Cesare Zavattini doesn’t just explore the journey that Umberto takes in as he copes with this post-war miracle in Rome but the downsides as men like him are being left out with no raise for their pension as the opening scene has these old men protest over this issue. For Umberto, he has very few people who can sympathy with his plight such as the young maid (Maria Pia Casilo) who likes his company and his dog as she comes to him for advice as she is pregnant.

Adding to Umberto’s plight is his failing health as he only has half of the money to pay the rent but the landlady (Lina Gennari) wants the entire amount or nothing at all. Especially as she has plans of her own in what she wants to do with her apartment building as she would let Flike wander off with no regard when Umberto had to go to the hospital for an illness. Flike would be found as it only add to the troubles Umberto faces as it is clear that men of his age are dealing with a future that is bleak or nonexistent at its worst.

The direction of de Sica is just intoxicating for not just the look of post-war Rome in this state of economic growth that some are getting something out of with others not getting much or nothing at all. Shot on location in Rome, de Sica would use some unique wide shots to capture the city coming alive but also with something that is unsettling as it relates to people living outside of the city or those who haven’t reaped the benefits of this economic boom. There’s an intimacy to de Sica’s direction in the way he films Umberto in his plight where there’s some close-ups but it’s in the medium shots and wide shots that says a lot. Especially in the former in his encounter with people as well as the dog Flike who is a major character in the film as he is one of the few reasons that Umberto is living. The film also has de Sica take a great look into the plight of the older generation who had been through war and everything as they are often wearing suits and a hat trying to look presentable but it’s not enough. Even as Umberto has to endure the indignity of having his room be used as a brothel for anyone his landlord would rent the room to. It all plays to a man being pushed to the edge as he is aware that his time is running out. Yet, de Sica does endure that no matter how bad things are for Umberto. There is some form of dignity that the character can hold on to. Overall, de Sica creates an enthralling yet heartfelt film about a man dealing with a new world he’s not a part of.

Cinematographer Aldo Graziati does brilliant work with the film’s black-and-white cinematography as it captures the beautiful exteriors in the day along with some unique lighting schemes for the interior scenes as well as the scenes set at night. Editor Eraldo Da Roma does excellent work with the film’s editing as it is quite straightforward as it play into the dramatic elements of the film without emphasizing on style. Production designer Virgilio Marchi and set decorator Ferdinando Ruffo do fantastic work with the look of the apartment building that Umberto live in as well as the room he lives in as it would later be ruined for the landlord’s interior remodling. The sound work of Ennio Sensi is terrific as it is very straightforward to play into the sound of the trolleys heard from inside the house as well as the buses. The film’s music by Alessandro Cicognini is amazing as it has this somber yet enchanting orchestral score that plays into the plight that Umberto endures as it is a highlight of the film.

The film’s superb cast include a superb performance from Memmo Carotenuto as a man that Umberto meets at the hospital as well as a wonderfully slimy performance from Lina Gennari as the cruel landlord who wants to remodel her home for her own selfish reasons. Maria Pia Casilio is radiant as the young maid Maria who deals with her own plight as has an unwedded pregnancy as she turns to Umberto for help as well as be one of the few that helps him. The dog Napoleone is just incredible as Flike as this loyal companion that provides Umberto with a reason to care no matter how bad things are. Finally, there’s Carlo Battisti in a phenomenal performance as the titular character as this retired government worker that is dealing with the emergence of the modern world as he has trouble fitting in the world as he is being evicted as he also deals with the indifference he faces from modern society as it’s a powerful and touching performance from Battisti.

Umberto D. is a tremendous film from Vittorio de Sica. Featuring a great cast, a remarkable screenplay, gorgeous visuals, a hypnotic score, and a universal premise that is engaging. The film is definitely visceral in terms of what the character endures as the film is also a worthy introduction for anyone that wants to understand what Italian neorealism is. In the end, Umberto D. is a magnificent film from Vittorio de Sica.

Vittorio De Sica Films: (Rose scarlatte) - (Maddalena, zero in condotta) - (Teresa Venerdi) - (Un garibaldino al convento) - (The Children Are Watching Us) - (La porta del cielo) - (Shoeshine) - (Heart and Soul (1948 film)) - Bicycle Thieves - Miracle in Milan - (It Happened in the Park) - (Terminal Station) - (The Gold of Naples) - (The Roof) - (Anna of Brooklyn) - Two Women (1960 film) - (The Last Judgment) - (Boccaccio ‘70) - (The Condemned of Altona) - (Il Boom) - Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow - Marriage Italian-Style - (Un monde nouveau) - (After the Fox) - (Woman Times Seven) - The Witches (1967 film)- An Evening Like the Others - (A Place for Lovers) - (Sunflowers (1970 film)) - The Garden of the Finzi-Continis - (Lo chiameremo Andrea) - (A Brief Vacation) - (The Voyage)

© thevoid99 2017

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