UMBERTO D. (1952) B/W 89m dir: Vittorio De Sica

w/Carlo Battisti, Maria Pia Casilio, Lina Gennari, Alberto Albani Barbieri, Elena Rea, Ileana Simova, Memmo Carotenuto

One of the jewels in the crown of Italian Neorealism, this touching film concerns a retired pensioner and his dog who try to survive in post-WWII Italy.

FilmFrog warning: the excerpt below contains plot material you may not want to know before seeing the film:

From Georges Sadoul's Dictionary of Films: "Memorable sequences: the demonstration by pensioners; Umberto's solitary life in his shabby room; his attempts at begging stopped by his own pride; his discussions with the melancholy maid (Casilio) who becomes pregnant and who occasionally helps him in his squabbles with the landlady; his stay in the hospital; the loss of his dog; his decision to kill himself; his efforts to put his dog in boarding kennels, and his change of heart; his attempt to throw himself with his dog under a train and the dog's wriggling away making him change his mind.

"Vittorio De Sica has described his 'favorite film' as: 'the tragedy of those people who find themselves cut off from a world that they nevertheless helped to build, a tragedy hidden by resignation and silence but one that occasionally explodes in loud demonstrations or that is pushed into appalling suicides. A young man's decision to kill himself is taken seriously but what does one say of the suicide of an old man already so close to death? It's terrible. A society that allows such things is a lost society.' [Screenwriter Cesare] Zavattini saw it as a continuation of the three earlier films he had made with De Sica, which he defined as an appeal to public solidarity.

"Is it possible to describe Umberto D as 'pessimistic' because the demonstration takes place at the beginning and the attempted suicide at the end? The public would surely be more likely to be aroused by this portrait of a man in the depths of distress than by suggesting the demonstration was immediately effective. The film's uncompromising approach to its theme made it only a limited commercial success. Nevertheless, this and Bicycle Thieves ... are the best of the five films from Sciuscia to Il Tetto in which De Sica and Zavattini depicted life in postwar Italy."

The film received an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Screenplay.