Vittorio De Sica

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Vernon Young

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[In La Ciociara (Two Women), De Sica] is less than ever concerned directly with the fate of a single class; more than ever and with more driving force than ever before, concerned with the fate of people. As before, however, his generalization is absorbed in the particular through that reconciliation of intense compassion with scrupulous objectivity which is his personal genius—and the particular, in the person of Cisera, the widow from Ciociaria, cries aloud that in "one world" there is no place to hide….

It's inseparable from the De Sica view that misery must love company, in order to purge and renew itself. Faced with a condition wherein the church stands stripped, our brothers-in-arms are rapists, the Communist at home is wide of the human mark, and dead cyclists rot in the postcard landscape, the surviving individual can only turn to something he can cherish—and may God help those who have nobody to help. (p. 15)

A De Sica film makes demands on one's talent for simplicity, since it deceptively appears to have no style; for style is the integration of an artist's temperament in the form of his art, and the De Sica film is one in which as far as possible the eye behind the camera betrays no consciousness of itself. Which is why De Sica baffles the aesthetic analyst: he directs one's own eye not toward art but toward life, thereby making pronouncements on the art nearly superfluous. We know it isn't life we're watching, but the cinematic subtleties it's our function and pleasure to elucidate have been predigested in the conception of the film, leaving the critic little to say of specifically cinematic import until De Sica commits an error of judgment. This is an extremely rare occurrence and the fact that he makes some in La Ciociara is no relief to me; all but the terminating one are too trivial to be recorded, but that one is puzzling enough to be questioned aloud. As in most of De Sica's films, life comes to rest at a fateful moment which is not so much the end of the movie as the point at which De Sica discreetly takes his leave—on tiptoe, as it were—of the characters whom he has been accompanying, making no untoward cinematic flourish that will disturb their moment of truth. This time the effect is shattered, owing to the prolonged finality of the backtracking shot that frames Cisera with her daughter in her arms, announcing all too heavily, "closing tableau," a disappointingly sententious touch which might have been less damaging if the preceding content had not been so excruciatingly untheatrical.

De Sica's "life-like" purism commits him to an exacting degree of consistency. And commits him to what would be in anyone else an anxious degree of dependence on his actors. Perhaps the secret of his success in this direction is precisely that he never expresses anxiety, only confidence. (pp. 15-16)

Vernon Young, "The Moral Cinema: Notes on Some Recent Films," in Film quarterly (copyright 1961 by The Regents of the University of California; reprinted by permission of the University of California Press), Vol. XV, No. 1, Fall, 1961, pp. 14-21.∗

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