February 12 – February 26


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

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.

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

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.

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.

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.