February 12 – February 26

VITTORIO DE SICA: CINEMA, ITALIAN STYLE

Vittorio De Sica (1901–1974) will forever be associated with neorealism, the movement he consolidated with a string of influential masterpieces detailing the hardships of working-class life immediately after World War II. Yet the actor and director, across a career spanning six decades, ranged widely in his stylistic approaches and concerns. He explored Commedia all’italiana and fabulist fantasy, and made socially incisive romantic comedies and frothy sex comedies. He worked in Los Angeles as well as Rome and his late work, such as the elegiac triumph The Garden of the Finzi-Continis, successfully combines neorealist principles with Hollywood grandeur and technique.

Born in Sora, near Rome, De Sica spent his early years in Naples. His bank-clerk father encouraged his entry into acting and by the 1930s De Sica was a matinee idol, with a debonair screen persona akin to Cary Grant’s. He would continue to act his entire life, often cheerfully taking on lightweight roles to fund his own films, while parlaying his acting talent into a directorial empathy with performers both professional and amateur. It was while acting on a film in 1935 that De Sica met screenwriter Cesare Zavattini, leading to a partnership that defined not only both men’s careers but also the neorealist movement. Of De Sica’s 33 films, Zavattini worked on the scripts of 20 or so, a number of which appear in this season. Working with Zavattini, De Sica would direct four films that would go on to win Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language Film; in fact, the pair’s work on Shoeshine and Bicycle Thieves received the honorary awards that inaugurated the category. This season presents many of the key works of De Sica’s landmark directorial career including his defining contributions to neorealism and the peak of his iconic collaborations with Marcello Mastroianni and Sophia Loren, Marriage Italian Style.

February 12

6:30pm BICYCLE THIEVES
Vittorio De Sica (1948) 89 mins – PG

A poetic tragicomedy and a landmark of neorealism, De Sica’s most celebrated film follows a man whose bicycle – his livelihood and only salvation in depressed postwar Rome – is taken by a thief, setting off a desperate chase through the war-ravaged city. Filmed on location, this iconic film’s simple construction and unadorned style belie an aching emotional power and richly detailed moral ambiguity. Co-written with Cesare Zavattini, it was voted the greatest film of all time in the inaugural Sight & Sound critics poll and remains a powerful rumination on cycles of oppression.

Courtesy of Cinecittà Luce.


8:10pm MIRACLE IN MILAN
Vittorio De Sica (1951) 97 mins – G

One of the many films De Sica made in collaboration with screenwriter Cesare Zavattini, this Chaplinesque poetic fairy-tale is “posed midway between reality and fantasy” (De Sica), fusing the social and economic concerns of neorealism with a more optimistic and fantastic sensibility. Its central character, Totò (Francesco Golisano), embodies an angelic perception of the world, passing this onto the impoverished community he belongs to. This “glorious anomaly in De Sica’s career” (Stephen Harvey) is the director’s “most daring” (Michael Atkinson) movie.

Courtesy of Cinecittà Luce.

February 19

6:30pm THE GARDEN OF THE FINZI-CONTINIS
Vittorio De Sica (1970) 94 mins – M

De Sica’s final great film adapts Giorgio Bassani’s monumental novel about the years leading up to the fascist destruction of the Jewish community of Ferrara. Viewed through the prism of a single, privileged family, it’s an elegiac swansong comparable with Visconti’s redolent masterpiece The Leopard. Winning an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film and the Golden Bear at Berlin, it features Dominique Sanda (who had just completed The Conformist for Bertolucci), Lino Capolicchio and Helmut Berger.

35mm print courtesy of Cinecittà Luce.


8:15pm SHOESHINE
Vittorio De Sica (1946) 87 mins – M

In post-World War II Rome, two shoeshine boys become involved in black marketeering. De Sica’s first masterpiece is one of the defining works of neorealism and a fascinating document of a city and country still ravaged by the scars of war. Treading a fine line between stark social criticism and an almost hauntingly poetic symbolism, James Agee called it “as beautiful, moving, and heartening a film as you are ever likely to see”. Written by the great Cesare Zavattini and Sergio Amidei, amongst others, it earned an honorary Oscar.

35mm print courtesy of Cinecittà Luce.

February 26 (Cancelled)

6:30pm TWO WOMEN
Vittorio De Sica (1960) 101 mins – M

Based on Alberto Moravia’s novel, this Cesare Zavattini-scripted tale of survival in war-torn Italy is one of De Sica’s most celebrated later films. Cesira (Sophia Loren) and her teenage daughter (Eleonora Brown) are on the run, fleeing the Allied bombing raids throughout Europe. This fictional story was partly based on the appalling events of May 1944 in rural Lazio, during what the Italians call the Marocchinate. Loren’s extraordinary performance won the Best Actress Oscar, the first ever for a non-English-language movie. With Jean-Paul Belmondo.

Courtesy of Cinecittà Luce.


8:25pm MARRIAGE ITALIAN STYLE
Vittorio De Sica (1964) 102 mins – M

One of the most famous Italian comedies of all time stars the sizzling, irrepressible duo of Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni as lovers entwined in a two-decade-long tempestuous relationship, complete with capricious attractions, illegitimate children and a fraudulent wedding. De Sica’s flamboyant and fast-paced battle of the sexes is filled with wry humour and laugh-out-loud moments, developing into a disarmingly moving work which offers piercing insight into the Neapolitan mindset.

35mm print courtesy of Cinecittà Luce.

7 February
OPENING NIGHT 2024

7 February – 21 February
FROM THE BOULEVARDS OF PARIS TO THE DOCKS OF CHERBOURG: LANDMARKS OF THE FRENCH FILM MUSICAL

28 February – 13 March
"LIVING MAY BE TRAGIC, BUT LIFE ISN'T": THE FILMS OF THE TAVIANI BROTHERS

20 March – 3 April
IN THE AFTERGLOW: THE MERCURIAL STARDOM OF GLORIA GRAHAME

Wednesday 10 April
MAN OF THE CINEMA: A TRIBUTE TO JOHN FLAUS AT 90

17 April – 1 May
KEEP ROLLING: ANN HUI'S COUNTER-CINEMA

8 May – 22 May
"ALL ART IS ONE": THE VISIONARY CINEMA OF MICHAEL POWELL AND EMERIC PRESSBURGER

29 May – 12 June
WRITING WITH HER EYES: SUSO CECCHI D'AMICO, SCREENWRITER AS OBSERVER

19 June – 3 July
THE HOUSE THAT MOHSEN BUILT: THE FILMS OF SAMIRA MAKHMALBAF, MARZIEH MESHKINI AND MOHSEN MAKHMALBAF

10 July – 24 July
THE PAIN OF LIVING: JEAN EUSTACHE, BEING CINEMA

Wednesday 31 July
BETWEEN THE WAVE AND REVOLUTION: THE RETURN OF RIVETTE’S LEGENDARY L’AMOUR FOU

4–18 September
BLIND BEASTS, RED ANGELS AND HOODLUM SOLDIERS: THE IRRESISTIBLE CINEMA OF YASUZO MASUMURA

25 September – 9 October
JIŘÍ MENZEL: MAKING COMEDIES IS NO FUN

16–23 October
OF MEN AND MONSTERS: THE CINEMA OF NIKOS KOUNDOUROS

Wednesday 30 October
CONTESTED HISTORIES: THE DOCUMENTARIES OF JENI THORNLEY

6–20 November
THE FIRST AND LAST OF ENGLAND: THE QUEER LEGACIES OF DEREK JARMAN

Wednesday 27 November
PARADING THE PAST: RECENT ERNST LUBITSCH RESTORATIONS

4–11 December
THE SEEDS OF CHANGE: THE DOCUMENTARIES OF TOM ZUBRYCKI

Wednesday 18 December
CARLTON AND BEYOND: THE MELBOURNE UNIVERSITY FILM SOCIETY IN THE 1960s