["The Garden of the Finzi Continis"] is certainly the best film that Vittorio De Sica has made in years, but the shabby habits he acquired when directing such things as "Sunflower" and "A Place for Lovers" keep intruding upon this new, much more ambitious work to render it less affecting than it has every right to be.
Mr. De Sica's way with end-of-an-era romance is to shoot almost everything in soft focus, as if he didn't trust the validity of the emotions in what seems to be a perfectly decent screenplay. The film's mood of impending doom is not discovered by the viewer, but imposed on him, by a syrupy musical score and by a camera that keeps panning to and from the sky, and shots of the sun, seen through the same sort of treetops that hover over the actors in the world of Newport cigarettes.
This is particularly frustrating because it has the effect of constantly reducing and denying the complexities of the characters and the performances….
["The Garden of the Finzi Continis"] is a very melancholy movie, but its sentiments are essentially those contained on Micol's 78 r.p.m. recording of Tommy Dorsey's "Getting Sentimental Over You." They are prettily expressed but not profoundly moving.
Vincent Canby, "Screen: 'Garden of the Finzi Continis'," in The New York Times (© 1971 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), December 17, 1971 (and reprinted in The New York Times Film Reviews: 1971–1972, The New York Times Company & Arno Press, 1973, p. 189).