Italian Cinema

Umberto D., 1952

Umberto Domenico Ferrari (Carlo Battisti) is a proud, retired civil servant struggling to eke out a meager existence on his government pension. The film opens one morning to a group of pensioners, including the frail Umberto, taking their case for equitable compensation to the streets of Rome, only for their demonstration to be quashed by… read more »

Bicycle Thieves, 1948

A crowd forms in front of a government employment agency, as it does every day, waiting – often in vain – for job announcements. Antonio Ricci (Lamberto Maggiorani), one of the unemployed laborers who participates in this daily ritual, is selected to hang posters in the city, a job requiring a bicycle, which he has… read more »

Shoeshine, 1946

In an early episode in Shoeshine, two boyhood friends, Giuseppe (Rinaldo Smordoni) and Pasquale (Franco Interlenghi), bargain with an opportunistic fortune teller named Anselmi (Maria Campi) over the sale of used American-made blankets before convincing the shrewd woman to give them a reading of their future. As the boys huddle curiously over a deck of… read more »

Le Quattro volte, 2010

The idea of permeable boundaries between life and death, reality and fiction also captures the spirit of Michelangelo Frammartino’s distilled, yet richly textured fresco, Le Quattro Volte. Composed of four seasonal portraits that collectively present the cycle of life in the ancient village of Calabria, the film is something of a hybrid between Raymond Depardon’s… read more »

8 1/2, 1963

8 1/2 weaves fluidly through the visually intoxicating landscape of Federico Fellini’s subconscious, seemingly to seek inspiration and validation for his life and work. In an opening scene that symbolizes much of Fellini’s films, a suffocating man, trapped inside his car, inexplicably begins to float into the skies, only to be abruptly tugged back to… read more »

La Dolce Vita, 1960

Few films have indelibly defined society as caustically and honestly as Federico Fellini’s La Dolce Vita. Marcello Rubini (Marcello Mastroianni), a frustrated writer, is reduced to tabloid journalism in order to make ends meet. He spends every evening in Via Veneto – the venerable hotspot for people who want to be seen – vicariously awaiting… read more »

Nights of Cabiria, 1957

Nights of Cabiria is a touching, humorous, and poignant film about hope and survival. As the first film of the trilogy of loneliness, Federico Fellini pares the story of an endearing prostitute searching for love and happiness down to its fundamental substance. The result is a social criticism that is honest, impartial, and searing. We… read more »

Il Bidone, 1955

A bishop and a priest are chauffeured to the rural home of two peasant sisters. They recount the story of an unnamed man who has made a deathbed confession of burying a treasure chest along with a murdered victim by a tree in the middle of their property. The confessor has bequeathed the hidden bounty… read more »

La Strada, 1954

La Strada is Federico Fellini’s moving masterpiece that explores the soul’s eternal conflict between the heart and mind. Zampano (Anthony Quinn) is a cruel, traveling carnival strongman who buys his assistant, a simple minded young woman named Gelsomina (Giulietta Masina), from her poverty-stricken family. Gelsomina is innocent and childlike (Masina’s exquisite performance is as comic… read more »

I Am Love, 2009

With its baroque interiors and saturated compositions, Luca Guadagnino’s sprawling I Am Love recalls the melodramas of Luchino Visconti in its lush and operatic, if oddly clinical and overwrought treatise on passion, identity, and destiny. And like Visconti’s The Leopard, a majestic dinner party also foretells the end of a way of life: the retirement… read more »