Friday, October 23, 2015

251. Umberto D (1952)

Running Time: 91 minutes
Directed By: Vittorio De Sica
Written By: Cesare Zavattini
Main Cast: Carlo Battisti, Maria-Pia Casilio, Lina Gennari, Ileana Simova, Elena Rea
Click here to view the trailer


By this time tomorrow, I hope to have less than ten films to go and by this time next week, I hope to have less than three, with the ultimate goal still being to finish it all up on Halloween day. If I've calculated correctly, I shouldn't have too much trouble hitting that goal, which means only eight more days till total victory!

Meanwhile, there's still fourteen more reviews to write, so let's get down to it...

Umberto D. is a pretty simple, little story about an aging government worker, retired and on a pension, who is fighting to get his pension raised. To put it bluntly, Umberto is poor as dirt. He can't even afford to pay his landlady, who pesters him everyday to "pay up" or face eviction. In fact, Umberto can barely afford to even eat, paying for a meal at a local kitchen and feeding half of his plate to his beloved dog, Flike. One day, when returning home and fighting the landlady to even gain access into the room he rents, he suspects he may be coming down with something. Umberto pushes his "illness" so far, in fact, that he manages to get himself committed to a hospital, where he can lay low until he earns enough money to pay his landlady and secure his room. While in the hospital, Umberto's dog is left in the care of the maid of his residence, who manages to lose him when the landlady leaves the door open. Once discharged, Umberto searches for Flike, finally finding him at the dog pound. Realizing he's on his last legs financially, however, Umberto knows that he must make a drastic decision.


So yeah, not really a whole lot happens here. We have a man who's poor - we establish that early - and then we just kind of watch him while he continues to be poor. I wouldn't be surprised if something went over my head here, but judging it on it's surface, I'd call Umberto D a fairly boring soiree at the movies. I mean, sure it's sad and everything, but not so sad that I cried and then at the end, with tear filled eyes, proclaimed it to be the greatest thing ever. Cute dogs will make anybody a little sentimental, it's a fact of life. I mean, let's say Umberto D. gets so fed up, he scoops up Flike and jumps in front of the oncoming train. Then we have a movie and probably the saddest movie of all time and one that I can get behind, dissect and talk about the social injustices that forced such a sweet old man and his little doggy into the path of suicide. But that doesn't happen and we get a happy ending that feels just as tacked on as the one from The Last Laugh.

This would be my fourth Vittorio De Sica film, three of which I watched for THE BOOK - the other two being The Garden of the Finzi-Continis and The Bicycle Thief. The latter made it into one of my TOP 20 list, while the former was at least compelling enough to get a passing grade. I've also seen Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow, a film that I liked well enough to give a '7/10' earlier this year and which featured the gorgeous Sophia Loren and the great Marcello Mastroianni. Then you turn to this one, his most famous film, I think and it just sort of left me wanting a lot more. I'd actually seen Umberto D once before and remember rating it well. However, that was at a time when I was far less picky. I feel like there's a lot going on in this film that I'm not picking up on. A lot of messages that are being sent out about the state of things in Italy at that time or at a more impressionable time in the director's life. I think, though, that a lot of people miss those messages and I think a lot of the praise for this film simply goes to it because it is so sad and we do nearly see a man driven to suicide because of the system. Hell, that dog probably raked in a lot of sympathy votes, as well. I'm not saying it's bad movie, per se - all I'm saying is that for my money, it's De Sica's worst film, where not a lot happens and the overall message is a personal one that is clouded by the sadness of the dog stuff.

RATING: 5.5/10  Maybe I'm just going '5.5' for the sole reason that my last three ratings have been a '6' or I could just be trying to convey that this was my least favorite film of the past four films I've seen.


October 23, 2015  4:20pm


  1. OK.. I was OK. I'd even go as far as saying better than it should be. Films that revolve round a cute dog rank alongside films with cute or brattish kids .. I know we are being manipulated, and I react against it.
    But this is a chunk of Italian we should expect some heart tugging .. it's just we should expect a bit more .. well, realism.
    Not DeSica's worst (in terms of emotive manipulation). Beware of 'Miracle in Milan' and 'Shoeshine' .

    1. Yeah, the cute dog was kind of a cheap way to lure us in, wasn't it?


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