3 titles, 45th in points with 15,777
De Sica made post-war films in the style of Italian postwar realism. These films usually have a gritty, black-and-white style that closely resembles documentaries, shot on the streets in real light.
In an interview on a dvd, he said the day of studios making happy escapism for the masses were over, that a new world demanded films of social relevance that attacked the problems faced by humanity. De Sica usually cast amateurs in his lead roles. The lead actor of Bicycle Thief was a factory worker, and in Umberto D. a retired teacher. He probably would be ranked much higher had he made more films.
These are all the films of Italian director Vittorio De Sica’s that made the top 1000 in our 2011 update of the Top Ranked 1000 Films on the Net, all polls.
1. The Bicycle Thief (1948) Italy, bw #21
2. Umberto D. (1952) #80
3. Miracle in Milan (1951) #630
Just out of the top 1000
4. Shoeshine (Sciuscia, 1947) #1312
De Sica’s best films (the top two here) are tough to take, but ultimately tell universal tales of hardships faced by average citizens, especially after wars. Umberto D. is my favorite of his, dedicated to his father, it’s about an elderly pensioner who can’t survive on the meager payments he receives, yet who is somehow given hope and kept alive by his little Jack Russell dog Flike [see photo below]. This is now my favorite dog in cinema history, who by being dependent on his owner gives his owner a reason to keep going.
The Bicycle Thief is almost too much to take. It’s about a poor Italian man who gets a job only because he has a bicycle to get around to all the place he’ll be hanging advertising signs. One day while on a ladder putting up a sign, someone steals his bicycle. In the Sight and Sound film polls (that occur once per decade), this is the only film other than Citizen Kane to ever be ranked #1.
De Sica is a former actor who made a better director, as he was a competant actor yet prone to hamming it up. As a director he showed a delicate touch for humanitarian problems and made riveting films of Italian realism that also had social impact. These films could never fail to move a person with any compassion remaining for humanity. Umberto D. is an all-time top 20 film for me.
De Sica ranks among the best handful of Italian directors to me: Bertolucci, Antonioni, Tournatore, and Fellini would be the others. On a level below these: Rossellini, Visconti, Monicelli, Wertmuller, Pasolini, Pontecorvo, Ormi, and Caviani.
See the full list of top ranked 100 directors here: Top Ranked 100 Directors, 2011 Edition