Thursday, December 8, 2011

Umberto D. A-

Umberto D. isn't a great title but it is pretty great film. The director is Vittorio de Sica, whose name is synonymous with Italian neorealism, a term foreign to most. The bleak world of his films then come as no surprise. He was one of the great Italian directors, along with Rosellini, Pasolini, Fellini, and Antonioni. His most accessible and famous film is The Bicycle Thief, which personally prefer. But objectively, Umberto D. is every bit as good as the former, and also equally heartbreaking. Like the Bicycle Thief, it's made up of sparse parts that would look mundane from a distance. But De Sica's film is a long close-up into the lives of a few people, and his understanding of them makes it a remarkably accurate representation of human nature when deprived of human needs. It's a slow and somber piece, and the great thing about it is that de Sica's audience is really universal. Rich or poor, young or old, it's a film for all to understand. The movie isn't so much about the pain and brutality of life, but rather its frustrations and disappointments. There are scenes of great power, and scenes that are so small and quiet as to make you think you're seeing something real. The central relationships in the film are between an aging man named Umberto, his faithful dog, and the servant in his apartment building. The man and the servant are masterfully developed, while the dog is lovable without being overly cute. Umberto D. is actually a pretty stellar family film if you're looking for something to provoke conversation and an awakening of just how challenging life can become. It's not a movie just for those stuck-up film geeks, but for everyone. Most of the great Italian directors did not have that gift of making a film accessible for all viewers. De Sica was an exception, for he understood all beings of all ages, even dogs.

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