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Umberto D.

A Man Stripped Of His Dignity

About.com Rating 4 Star Rating

By Jurgen Fauth

Umberto D. DVD
"Is there anything a man don't stand to lose / When the devil wants to take it all away?" the old song asks, and is seems that the devil is certainly after Umberto D., the grey-haired hero of Vittorio De Sica's 1952 film.

When we meet him, he is protesting for a raise in government pensions, but the police soon chases him away; Umberto D. has no money, no job, no family, his health is failing and he's about to be evicted by his dragon landlady. His only friends are the dewy-eyed maid Maria (Maria-Pia Casilio), in serious trouble herself, and his dog Flike, a loveable and loyal mutt.

If you are familiar with De Sica's other films, which include the neo-realist classics "The Bicycle Thief" and "Shoeshine," you know that things aren't likely to get better for Umberto, played by Carlo Battisti. As we follow the exhausted old man through the streets of Rome looking for a way to pay his rent, we witness defeat after defeat, "a man stripped of his dignity," as Steward Klawans writes in the essay accompanying the DVD.

"Umberto D." is sad, but not sentimental--the emotions are earned, and Umberto's final act of desperation deserves our full sympathy. The Criterion Collection expands its already sizeable offering of important international and American films with this absolutely essential classic.

The DVD features a new, restored transfer, an hour-long documentary on De Sica's life, interviews with the actors and essays by Klawans, Umberto Eco, and others.

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