De Sica.  It feels late to finally be adding one of cinema’s great realists. Bicycle Thieves is an all-time film (14th all-time on my top 500) and with Umberto D, Shoeshine and Two Women we have four top 500 films. This is the same amount as Rossellini (and De Sica is the one with a top 100 film— and his in the top 15!) and ahead of the Dardenne brothers and Kiarostami.  Satyajit Ray has five films so with a longer proper study he may pass De Sica but for now De Sica remains ahead with Ray’s films all failing to fall in the top 100.

Best film:  Bicycle Thieves. If I actually met someone that called Bicycle Thieves “overly sentimental” I might punch them in the face. Haha. I wasn’t surprised to read some of the “sentimental” critiques of De Sica while doing my research for this project but it certainly doesn’t apply to this film in my opinion. Even though it’s 3 years after Rossellini’s Rome, Open City this is the landmark Italian neorealism film. It’s a masterwork and belongs right behind Citizen Kane on the list of the best films of the 1940’s (ahead of Magnificent Ambersons, Casablanca and The Third Man).

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Rome Open City is the landmark but this is the best neorealism film
earned sympathy and poignant moments
crisp b/w photography

total archiveable films: 9

top 100 films: 1

top 500 films: 4 (Bicycle Thieves, Umberto D, Two Women, Shoeshine)

one of De Sica’s greatest shots here in Umberto D

top 100 films of the decade: 4 (Bicycle Thieves, Umberto D, Two Women, Shoeshine)

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another foreground/background special in Umberto D

most overrated:   Miracle in Milan is #519 on the TSPDT consensus list and I’d be hundreds of spots below that. I saw it in 2015 for the first time and I was really disappointed (given its reputation). It’s certainly archiveable and I get what De Sica is going for but I wasn’t happy to find this (his #3 ranked film on TSPDT) is almost a pure fantasy film. It’s a solid film but certainly not the great film I had hoped it would be and I think I would’ve preferred a little of a weaker neorealist film than this fantasy film which debunks the dedication he had to neorealism in his oeuvre.

most underrated:  Shoeshine. I have no idea why this early neorealist film isn’t in the TSPDT top 1000. It debuted 7 months after open city. I have it as a must-see film (meaning top 5 of its year quality).  It’s tragic and brilliant.

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debuting just after Rome Open City Shoeshine is an underrated work form De Sica

gem I want to spotlight:  Two Women. Sophia Loren won an Oscar for her work here. She’s fantastic and this is a difficult and depressing neorealist must-see film. This easily could’ve gone in the “underrated” category above- both this and Shoeshine are in my top 500 and outside of the TSPDT top 1000.

Two Women is a late-period neorealist film (1960) and the greatest vehicle for Sophia Loren as an actress

stylistic innovations/traits:    Just because these films look like just regular dramas in today’s cinema it doesn’t mean they aren’t landmarks in the history of cinema. Yes, Rossellini’s film came first and he’s probably more dogmatic in his approach and dedication to neorealism but Bicycle Thieves is always going to be De Sica’s trump card and while we’re comparing the two founding neorealist masters I think De Sica’s Umberto D is superior to Rossellini’s #2 (Germany Year Zero). Italian neorealism as a whole, in which Rossellini and De sica are the Truffaut and Godard, is unbelievably important to the history of cinema. Both movements are antithetical to Hollywood of sorts, and I’m not sure we have a Satyajit Ray, a Wendy and Lucy, Elephant, the Dardenne brothers, Lars von Trier (the entire Dogme 95 movement actually), Abbas Kiarostami, Blue is the Warmest Color, Boyhood, etc…without De Sica and Rossellini. It’s an important counter-balance to not only Hollywood’s polish but the various expressionistic movements throughout this artform’s history.

top 10

  1. Bicycle Thieves
  2. Umberto D
  3. Two Women
  4. Shoeshine
  5. Miracle in Milan
  6. Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow
  7. Marriage, Italian Style
  8. The Gold of Naples
  9. The Garden of the Finzi-Continis

By year and grades

1946- Shoeshine MS
1948- Bicycle Thieves MP
1951- Miracle in Milan HR
1952- Umberto D MP
1954- The Gold of Naples R
1960- Two Women MS
1963- Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow R
1964- Marriage, Italian Style R
1970- The Garden of the Finzi-Continis R

*MP is Masterpiece- top 1-3 quality of the year film

MS is Must-see- top 5-6 quality of the year film

HR is Highly Recommend- top 10 quality of the year film

R is Recommend- outside the top 10 of the year quality film but still in the archives