Friday, October 03, 2008

Umberto D.

It does not seem right to single out one scene from a great film and not talk about the rest of the film but if this post makes even one reader of this blog curious about Vittorio De Sica's Umberto D., my job here is done :)

Allow me to set up the the video that you see below.

Umberto D. Ferrari, the protagonist of this classic Italian film, is an aging pensioner with exactly *zero* prospects in life. You see men like him everywhere. He has no friends or family (except for a little dog named Flike), he is unable to make ends meet and when this scene plays out, he does not even have a place he can call his home.

Out of desperation, Umberto decides to take up begging. But he feels a great deal of shame because he has been a member of the working class. What if someone known to him were to "catch" him begging? (Which is exactly what happens.)

We see the sad old man, stand on a street corner, shyly holding his hand out for alms, opening and closing his fist with embarrassment and wishing he could disappear when a man does stop with some change.

What makes this a great sequence is not the depiction of poverty and desperation. Any melodramatic director with a camera and a sentimental background score can do that. The greatness of the scene lies in how De Sica manages to amplify Umberto's pathos by adding some comedy to the situation. (That part of the sequence is not included in the video. Just know that the comedy bit involves a hat and Flike the dog.) It's made doubly sad because the situation is both funny and absurd.

OK, enough commentary. Now watch the video:



If you really, really want to enjoy the film, please resist the temptation to watch all those YT clips featuring the very last scene.

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

curiosity is killing the cat. why the post?

Ah, why not.

km said...

Anon: Because...I love this film? :)Why else?

wildflower seed said...

I've been meaning to see this one for a long time. This post has certainly revived my interest. But I need to start and finish "Sacrifice" before I can get to this one. Thanks!

km said...

WS: I feel like De Sica's films have a new relevance, esp. for us living here in the States.

Which "Sacrifice" are you referring to?

wildflower seed said...

The Tarkovksy film.

Alok said...

This is one of my favourites of the old Italian films. Another great and very painful scene is in the slaughterhouse. I was expecting the worst... then again the last scene too. The whole film is marvelous actually.

km said...

Alok: Ah, the dog-pound scene was pure terror.

WS: 'Tis the Tarkovsky season. I was myself getting ready to watch one of my favorites: "Andrei Rublev".

MockTurtle said...

Off-topic, but..
Read this yet?
http://www.rollingstone.com/news/story/23316912/makebelieve_maverick/print

km said...

MT: Oh yes, I had read that. Can't wait for tonight's debate :)

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