Entertainment

Umberto D.

by Jake Mulligan
Contributor
Tuesday Oct 2, 2012

Some filmmakers make you laugh, some warm your heart, some inspire contemplation. Postwar Italian legend Vittorio De Sica makes us cry. And "Umberto D.," to borrow a line from Orson Welles, "could make a stony cry."

The crushing story of the titular man, lost in post-War Italy living only on his pension and constantly struggling in search for necessities like a home or a friend; his only companion being his beloved dog, Flike (don’t count on that ending well.) De Sica’s masterpiece isn’t just a crushing drama, nor is it just a masterful evocation of place and time (it’s filmed entirely with nonprofessionals,) but is also a story told with incredible economy, running under 90 minutes. De Sica was as great a craftsman as he was a storyteller.

Which is why it’s so fitting that Criterion goes over-the-top, as they have yet again, using extra features to illuminate the many facets, themes, and styles imbedded in his work. The one-hour documentary profiling De Sica included within, "That’s Life," would be worth full price on its own. Past that, you get a 10-minute interview with an actress, and the usual collection of re-release trailers and academic essays; but it’s the documentary (originated from Italian television) that earns the trump. It’s a worthwhile, probing look into both his life and his work, creating some interesting connections between the two along the way. This is one of the most worthwhile extras on disc in a long time.

De Sica’s "Umberto" is as painful as it is honest, and on a par with his better-known "Bicycle Thieves" as perhaps the defining work of post-WWII Italian cinema. It may make you cry, but you’ll go back for more anyway.

"Umberto D."
Blu-ray
Criterion.com
$39.99

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