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Days of Glory: Revisiting Italian Neorealism

Friday, October 15, 2010
9:10 p.m. Miracle in Milan
Vittorio De Sica (Italy, 1951)

(Miracolo a Milano). Written by the great neorealist writer Cesare Zavattini, Miracle in Milan is a fable set against a realistic backdrop of Italy in 1951. An abandoned child, Toto, is taken in by a kindly old lady named Lolotta. When she dies, Toto joins a group of squatters in Milan's shantytown and soon becomes their leader, helping them to rebuild their hovels. When oil is discovered on the land, the squatters' lives are threatened by the landlord. From the good Strega Lolotta comes a dove, who enables Toto to work wonders for the beggars, but only until they and Toto are hauled off by the police. Before the term “magical realism” was widely used, Miracle in Milan, especially its finale, confounded the critics. This is magical neorealism.

Miracle in Milan is repeated on Sunday, October 31.

• Written by De Sica, Cesare Zavattini, from Zavattini's novel Toto Il Buono. Photographed by Aldo Graziati. With Francesco Golisano, Emma Gramatica, Guglielmo Barnabo, Paolo Stoppa. (95 mins, In Italian with English subtitles, B&W, 35mm, From Cinecittà Luce S.p.A., permission Janus/Criterion Collection)