Italian Neorealism—Extraordinary Films

Sep 17, 2020 | Newsletter

“The creator made Italy from designs by Michelangelo”

Mark Twain


Italian Neorealism started out of necessity. When World War II ended in May 1945, the major cities of Italy were mostly destroyed.  Unemployment was rampant, food and supplies were scarce, and the major film complexes were unusable. With these harsh conditions, filmmakers would have to adapt if they wanted to work. Instead of elaborate studio back lots, filmmakers would have to film on location; in rundown neighborhoods; without costly cameras and equipment;  they would have to shoot quickly and in black-and-white; their actors had to be drawn from nonprofessional locals. Neorealist films typically explored the poor and the lower working class where survival was the primary objective. But, fortunately, the times produced a few of the most outstanding filmmakers in cinema history. Beating the odds, they made films that were extraordinary and survive the test of time. 

The Italian Neorealist  period was a short one, lasting from the 1940s to the early 1950s. By the mid-1950 Italy was back on its feet. The direction  now was to make more elaborate films using expensive equipment, filming in color, and starring well-known professional actors.  

A tough job, but I narrowed my selection to eight extraordinary Neorealist  films from five of the most noteworthy Italian directors. You will not regret catching one… or most of them.


Roberto Rossellini:

Rome, Open City​

The film takes place in Nazi-occupied Rome in 1944. The Nazis are searching for Giorgio Manfredi, a Resistance fighter…



Paisan is about the liberation of Italy starting with the Allied invasion of Sicily in 1943 to the end of World War II in 1945…


Vittorio De Sica:


Giuseppe and Pasquale are two friends who make ends meet by shining shoes in the streets of
Rome. One day, Giuseppe’s older brother, Attilio, recruits…


Umberto D

Umberto is an elderly retired civil servant unable to live on his annual pension. He returns one day to his one-room apartment only to be told by the landlady…


Federico Fellini:

I Vitelloni

A heavy downpour interrupts a beachside beauty pageant in a provincial town on the Italian Adriatic coast…


Nights of Cabiria

A happy, laughing Cabiria, a prostitute, is standing by a river bank with her live-in boyfriend Giorgio when he snatches her purse filled with money…


Luchino Visconti:


Maddalena is an overbearing, working-class mother in Rome. She once tried to be a movie star but failed…


Giuseppe De Santis:

Bitter Rice

The film begins during the start of the rice-planting season in the Po Valley in Italy. To escape the law, Francesca and Walter, two small-time thieves…


Coming Soon, Can’t Wait

Sep 25: Netflix. The Trial of the Chicago 7. Aaron Sorkin directing the seven men charged with conspiracy during the anti-Vietnam war protests.
Dec 18: Platform TBD. West Side Story. Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of the Broadway classic. 
Opening TBD, 2021: Netflix. Diana: A Musical
Opening TBD, 2021: Netflix. The Crown. Season 4, late 2020; Season 5, 2021. 


News Briefs & Commentary

“Movie theaters are finally ready to unlock their doors for the shortened summer movie season. Movie theaters are taking precautions to ensure proper social distancing and reduce in-person contact while allowing moviegoers  to enjoy the new Hollywood films.”—Jenna Ryu, USA TODAY

Big question: Will  theaters raise ticket prices because they will be selling up to 40% fewer seats? It will not happen in the beginning but you can be sure ticket prices will go way up after a few months.


    My best,


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