Vittorio De Sica Stanley Kauffmann - Essay

Stanley Kauffmann

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

The late Vittorio De Sica was a fine artist, a polished hack, and a flabby whore—not necessarily in that order. His film career, as director and actor, was neither a slide nor an ascent: it simply varied. From a beginning in flossy drivel during the early 1930s he moved to his best films between 1946 and 1952 (The Bicycle Thief, Miracle in Milan, Umberto D.) and moved from them to too wide a range of quality. Much of his subsequent directing was not even shown in this country…. He surfaced again as a fine director with Two Women in 1961, then in 1972 he made another serious attempt with The Garden of the Finzi-Continis—unsuccessful, I think….

A Brief Vacation is billed as his last film. Last or not, it's very pleasant, not at his best level yet with a lot in it that shows the experience of a gifted man….

A Brief Vacation states, strongly, some early De Sica-Zavattini social concerns, then softens them a bit, although the color photography … is much less soppy than in Finzi-Continis….

The romance is the weakest part of the film, both because the role of the ailing mechanic is played by a man who is only a good-looking actor and because that whole narrative strand is handled with constraint and embarrassment. The gallery of women patients is rather obviously selected and balanced; it's not a Magic Mountain, only a modestly magic molehill. But the film is frequently touching because De Sica-Zavattini handle the young wife's home and working life with fidelity and utter understanding….

Stanley Kauffmann, "Films: 'A Brief Vacation'" (reprinted by permission of Brandt & Brandt Literary Agents, Inc.; copyright © 1975 by Stanley Kauffmann), in The New Republic, Vol. 172, No. 10, March 8, 1975, p. 22.