Vittorio De Sica Tom Milne - Essay

Tom Milne

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Neo-realism lives again in an opening sequence [of Una Breve Vacanza (A Brief Vacation)] where De Sica and Zavattini perpetrate another of those familiarly strident tableaux in which an Italian family swap vociferous recriminations amid the squalor of a cramped and rancid apartment. 'Lives', however, is hardly the word for the larger-than-life melodramatics resuscitated here, and Breve Vacanza is as dead as a doornail from the word go. Arguably, this opening sequence might be marginally more affecting were it not subjected to the grotesque distortions of dubbing, but nothing could save the fiction that follows from looking like anything other than a masturbatory fantasy by courtesy of women's lib. Clara's translation from the stews and sweatshops of Milan to a never-never mountain sanatorium whose main preoccupation appears to be romance rather than health, is really just the old Hollywood myth of the ugly duckling who becomes beautiful simply by taking her glasses off told all over again; and the characters who surround our Cinderella, from Prince Charming to ogre husband by way of the respectfully worshipful doctor, are all culled from the stereotypes of women's magazines.

Tom Milne, "'Una breve vacanza' ('A Brief Vacation')," in Monthly Film Bulletin (copyright © The British Film Institute, 1975), Vol. 42, No. 496, May, 1975, p. 101.