Through the Eyes of a Child

Roberto Rossellini’s Roma, Citta Aperta (Rome, Open City, 1945) is generally acknowledged as the film that ushered in the neorealism movement and set the tone and style for the postwar Italian films that followed. But the roots of neorealism can be traced back to Luchino Visconti’s Ossessione (1943) and Vittorio De Sica’s The Children Are Watching Us (1944, I bambini ci guardano), both of which were filmed in 1942 but encountered distribution problems upon their release in the fall of 1942 when the war finally came to Italy and the bombings began. Ossessione was also the victim of Fascist censorship which reduced the film to less than half of its original running time and for years it was denied distribution in the U.S. due to an infringement of copyright (it was an uncredited adaptation of the James M. Cain novel, The Postman Always Rings Twice). The Children Are Watching Us didn’t fare any better during its limited release and for years it was a difficult film to see in its original form, even in its own country. 



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The Great Displacement

At the end of WW2, it was estimated that more than 6 million people had been displaced from their homes and roughly 180,000 of these were children. Some were concentration camp survivors, others were orphaned or separated from their families, hiding in monasteries or living with strangers. There have been a handful of films that dealt with this traumatic situation and Fred Zinnemann’s The Search (1948) is probably the most famous post-war American film on the subject. It was nominated for four Academy Awards and won a special Juvenile Oscar for Ivan Jandl as a homeless kid separated from his Czech mother. Europe also produced some landmark films about displaced children during WW2 including Roberto Rossellini’s Germany Year Zero (1948) and Rene Clement’s Forbidden Games (1952) but Somewhere in Europe aka It Happened in Europe (Hungarian title: Valahol Europaban) from Hungarian director Geza von Radvanyi was one of the first films to address war orphans trying to fend for themselves. Released in 1947, the film is less well known than other post-war dramas from the same period but it is a harrowing portrait of a dire situation affecting Eastern Europe, especially Hungary, during the final days of the war.

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Toxic Love

Giuliano Gemma and Stefania Sandrelli play factory workers in Milan who become lovers in the tragic love story, Delitto D’amore (aka Crime of Love, 1974), directed by Luigi Comencini.

Milan, Italy is world famous as a mecca for high fashion, design and the AC Milan football club but the statistics also reveal that it is still one of Europe’s most polluted cities due to smoke spewing factories and auto emissions. Against this gray, industrial backdrop, Luigi Comencini has set his rarely seen but moving 1974 drama, Delitto D’amore (aka Crime of Love).    Continue reading

Ken Loach’s Weapon for Change: Cathy Come Home (1966)

Reg (Ray Brooks), Cathy (Carol White) and their children find themselves in desperate circumstances in Cathy Come Home (1966), directed by Ken Loach.

It is often regarded as the most important British television drama ever written. The controversy it aroused after its premiere broadcast in 1966 on the Wednesday Play series not only challenged the general perception of TV as a shallow medium but also exposed an endemic social problem in England that the government often overlooked – homelessness. As timely today as it was then, Cathy Come Home is a rare example of a television drama whose impact on the media and the government was so pervasive that it resulted in the creation of “Shelter,” a housing for the homeless charity.  Continue reading

The Neopolitan Trinity

Vittorio De Sica (left), Sophia Loren, Marcello Mastroianni in TOO BAD SHE'S BAD (1955)

Vittorio De Sica (left), Sophia Loren, Marcello Mastroianni in TOO BAD SHE’S BAD (1955)

Often overlooked or dismissed as a minor comic trifle, Peccato che sia una canaglia (English title: Too Bad She’s Bad) has, in recent years, acquired a much more favorable reassessment from film scholars and film buffs due to occasional revivals on Turner Classic Movies and a 2004 DVD release from Ivy Video. It not only has a delightful, rakish charm and evocative on-location filming in Rome but showcases three of the most iconic names in Italian cinema directed by the legendary Alessandro Blasetti, whose career began in the silent era and spanned six decades. Also noteworthy is the fact that the film is based on the short story Il fanatico by Alberto Moravia, the celebrated Italian novelist who saw many of his novels turned into major films – la ciociara became Vittorio De Sica’s Two Women, Il disprezzo became Jean-Luc Godard’s Contempt and Il conformista became Bernardo Bertolucci’s The Conformist. Continue reading