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SPECIFICATIONS
  • 1.33:1 Standard
  • Italian Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono
  • English subtitles
  • 1 Disc
FEATURES
  • That's Life: Vittorio De Sica, a 55-minute documentary made for Italian television in 2001
  • New video interview with actress Maria Pia Casilio
  • New essay by critic Stuart Klawans and a reprinted recollection on the film by De Sica
  • Writings on Umberto D. by De Sica, Umberto Eco, Carlo Battisti and Luisa Alessandri

Umberto D.


Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: Vittorio De Sica
Starring: Carlo Battisti, Maria Pia Casilio, Lina Gennari, Memmo Carotenuto
1952 | 89 Minutes | Licensor: Gruppo Mediaset

Release Information
DVD | MSRP: $29.95 | Series: The Criterion Collection | Edition: #201
RLJ Entertainment

Release Date: July 22, 2003
Review Date: September 3, 2012

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SYNOPSIS

Shot on location with a cast of nonprofessional actors, Vittorio De Sica's neorealist masterpiece follows Umberto D., an elderly pensioner, as he struggles to make ends meet during Italy's postwar economic boom. Alone except for his dog, Flike, Umberto strives to maintain his dignity while trying to survive in a city where traditional human kindness seems to have lost out to the forces of modernization. Umberto's simple quest to fulfill the most fundamental human needs-food, shelter, companionship-is one of the most heartbreaking stories ever filmed and an essential classic of world cinema.

Forum members rate this film 8.7/10

 

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PICTURE

Criterion’s 2003 DVD edition of Vittorio De Sica’s Umberto D. presents the film on a dual-layer disc in its original aspect ratio of 1.33:1. Because of the ratio the film has not been enhanced for widescreen televisions.

Based on a new high-definition transfer at the time, Criterion’s standard-definition presentation still holds up rather well today. It delivers a surprisingly clean transfer that delivers fine details clearly, strong contrast, with decent blacks, and a rather adequate handling of the film’s grain. Halos are visible around darker objects against a lighter background but this is rarely a major concern and doesn’t distract. Some of the grainier scenes in the film also come off a bit noisy. Where the presentation is weakest, though, is in the longer shots, which lack any detail and definition and look mostly like a blobby mess.

Damage remains but the restoration has been fairly thorough. Some splotches remain along with bits of dirt and debris, and there is a noticeable jitter and some rather large frame jumps. There are also instances where the overall quality degrades severely, the film gets very grainy, and the screen is littered with scratches. My guess is the damage was too severe in these instances that the clean-up job was near impossible without harming the image.

Despite some minor setbacks the presentation overall is still a strong one. Though a new Blu-ray edition does improve over it, presenting a more filmic image, many will more than likely be quite happy with this one.

7/10

All DVD screen captures are presented in their original size from the source disc. Images have been compressed slightly to conserve space. While they are not exact representations they should offer a general idea of overall video quality.

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AUDIO

The Dolby Digital 1.0 mono track is a bit flat and edgy but otherwise serviceable. Dialogue sounds clear and articulate and the film’s music, past the opening where it’s incredibly edgy, sounds decent enough.

6/10

SUPPLEMENTS

The Criterion Collection gives Umberto D. a simple release, but have included a few decent extras on this disc. The first is the 55-minute documentary That's Life: Vittorio De Sica, which I will note also appears in Arrows’ Blu-ray release of De Sica’s Bicycle Thieves. This documentary goes through the film career of De Sica, touching on most of his films, even offering behind-the-scenes bits in some parts. Its structure is a little odd, editing together De Sica interviews in an attempt to go through his career but it works. While it's very informative and fairly quick, I was disappointed that there wasn’t much on Umberto D. itself, especially since it was apparently De Sica’s favourite film, which is mentioned in the documentary as well. Still, for those looking for an excellent primer on the director this one is perfect. It is also divided into 10 chapters.

An interesting 12-minute interview featuring Maria Pia Casilio, the woman who played the young maid, is also included. She discusses how she actually came to take on the part and also talks a bit about De Sica the man. It’s brief but worth viewing.

A lot of text supplements have been included here, including three essays on the disc starting with one by writer Umberto Eco, who talks about the film's poor reception. There’s another by assistant director Luisa Alessandri, who tells a few on-set anecdotes (including something that sounds unfortunately cruel,) and then another by actor Carlo Battisti about his love for the character of Umberto. Criterion also includes another one of their booklets here, containing an excerpt by Vittorio Di Sica, and an essay by Stuart Klawans.

I will admit I was disappointed by the lack of anything else, but the few supplements we get are at least decent. Considering the film’s high reputation, with a few detractors, it would have been interesting to get a more analytical slant.

5/10

CLOSING

The lack of scholarly material is disappointing but the supplements we do get are fairly strong. But despite that disappointing area the transfer is strong enough to make this DVD an easy recommendation.


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