Professor Herzog, I have not been able to comply with blog challenge # 2 about the film Umberto. I have a small business renovating restaurants and I had to do some emergency installations. This is my excuse for not getting the movie to do the shot-by-shot analysis. Please, allow me to try to help myself…

Besides the numerous extra film reviews and comments that I already posted, I am going to post below a review of two films, Umberto and the Ladri the biciclette, the bicycle thief. I hope this will help me to improve my grade. I am not going to repeat the story of the movies because I think is more interesting to give you my point of view.

Italian neo realism is a presentation of life as it is- if we discount the input and subjectivity of the film’s Director and the acting of the cast. The movie Director’s point of view is really, what we see, because he chooses the story and the way he wants to tell it. In these films, sometimes, the camera just rolls as the actors naturally take on the characters that they are playing. The movies do not have much technicality as they try to be as realist as possible and intend for the open camera to tell the story.

Umberto is a retired old man who has no one else but his dog. Umberto eventually finds himself without a place to live. He tries to kill himself but in the last minute, he backs off and the movie ends presenting Umberto walking with his dog. In The Bicycle Thief, Antonio is a father who needs to provide for his family and for that he needs a bicycle to be able to do his work. A thief stills Antonio’s bicycle and he roams with his son the streets of Rome in desperation looking for his bicycle to be able to provide for his family. In the end, they never find the bicycle and Antonio walks in sadness with his son Bruno. Both films are presented in an Italy impoverished after the absurdity of WWII.

I saw the bicycle thief in Italian and the feel was more intense as it took me back to South America. I have been in a few South American countries in the 70s and they had, at the time- less so now, the kind of poverty and desolation that we “experienced” in Umberto and in The Bicycle thief. For me, the movies were painful to watch

The idea of Vittorio De Sicca in both films was to present the struggles of the poor, the common man, who finds himself in desperation and desolation that reflects the feeling of Italy after the war. He wants to anchor the viewers in the reality of Italia he is complaining in your face and presenting the question: How did we get in this mess? Why nobody hears the cries of the poor and needy?

Personally, I love movies that present life as it is but I do not like to dwell on the vicissitudes and sufferings of the poor. I am saying this, taking into account that movies like these are also necessary to express the poor’s cries for help and to make us reflect in the meaning of our society and how we are all in this together.

In my mind, I see the art in keeping these movies in black and white is this way they express better the idea of suffering and abandonment.

I hope that when you remember the characters of Umberto and Antonio you remember their sadness and Ricardo’s sadness if he gets a low grade…just kidding… I enjoyed the class a lot!

Ricardo La Rosa

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  1. I really have a new fond appreciation for Italian Neo realism, and i enjoyed reading your take on it. I have recommended The Bicycle Thief to those who have not seen it, as a must see film. It is a truly a captivating movie.

  2. Dear Ricardo,
    I cried (your reflections on representations of poverty) and I laughed (the sad tale of Ricardo L, Neorealism American-style). Thanks for posting this,
    Prof. Herzog

  3. With the movies in black and white the viewer can associate the contrast with how the people in the film world sees things. It’s sad to see that both movies end with no solution.

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