Vittorio De Sica Tom Allen - Essay

Tom Allen

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

In some ways it is humiliating that De Sica should go out with such a whimper [with The Voyage]. His career, between the highlights of Shoe Shine and Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow, could be described as a march from the Paris theatre to Third Avenue in popularizing both neo-realism and the modern commercial Italian film; he was conqueror of the Bloomingdale's gold coast and standard bearer of the New York art house during its many crises of identity. But those days are gone forever, and The Voyage, a sedate jewel of a film, is one of De Sica's quietest, least compromising works….

"The voyage" itself refers to Cesare and Adriana's journey for a cure, their first chance to discover themselves. It is an ominous time when World War I headlines are announcing the end of La Belle Epoch. From Sicilian villas through Neapolitan night spots and onto the grand hotels of the Venetian Canals, the voyage progresses through a stately historical panorama. De Sica's savoring en route of a [Georges] Melies film and the French Can Can reveal, somewhat, his cultural preoccupations in an otherwise uncommonly discreet film of thwarted emotions. Fortunately, the [film] is as ravishing as the opulent sets. In the De Sica legacy, perhaps this is the one film he conceived of as fit for mounting under a crystal jar. We are invited more to a formal objet d'art, a stereopticon of a passing age, than to a melodrama.

Tom Allen, "De Sica's Last Voyage" (reprinted by permission of The Village Voice and the author; copyright © The Village Voice, Inc., 1978), in The Village Voice, Vol. XXIII, No. 49, December 4, 1978, p. 57.