talian director Vittorio De Sica’s great neorealist film about elderly pensioner Umberto Domenico Ferrari (Carlo Battisti, a college professor who had never acted) and his beloved terrier, Flike, struggling to survive in postwar Rome, is possibly even more heartrending than his better-known Bicycle Thief. And which moment tugs the most? Perhaps it’s when Umberto surreptitiously feeds Flike at a soup kitchen. Or when he reluctantly stretches one hand out to beg, only to quickly withdraw it. Or the awful humiliation when he and his dog are tossed out on the street by an unsympathetic landlady. Of course, it was precisely this grim depiction of anxious poverty that, at a time when Italy was trying to rebound from wartime chaos, unsettled Italian critics and filmgoers. Fifty years later, its rigorous sentiment, played with a miraculous naturalness, puts a face and soul on all hapless men and women living out their last years in anonymous despair.
Posted July 25 2003 — 12:00 AM EDT
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