Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.5. Italy, 1951. Produzioni De Sica, Ente Nazionale Industrie Cinematografiche. Screenplay by Cesare Zavattini, Vittorio De Sica, Suso Cecchi D’Amico, Mario Chiari, Adolfo Franci, based on the novel Toto Il Buono by Cesare Zavattini. Cinematography by G.R. Aldo. Produced by Vittorio De Sica. Music by Alessandro Cicognini. Production Design by Guido Fiorini. Costume Design by Mario Chiari. Film Editing by Eraldo Da Roma. Cannes Film Festival 1951.
Corny little fantasy that must have been exactly what Italy needed while it was still rebuilding its morale following the devastation of World War II. Beginning with the words “Once Upon A Time” and divorcing itself of all realistic responsibility, the film opens with the discovery of a baby in a cabbage patch and only gets more whimsical from there. The miraculous infant is orphaned young when the sweet old lady who takes care of him dies and he must go to an orphanage; upon his release, he becomes a denizen of a city slum, but not one to ever doubt that “life is beautiful”, he turns it into a vibrant, bustling little city of brotherly love that he then defends when capitalistic interests try to move him and his neighbours out. Some angels from heaven and a wish-granting dove are not unheard of in Vittorio De Sica’s comedic fantasy, and while the film has not aged particularly well (the Cannes jury that picked it for the Palme d’Or was probably tired of all the exhausting neo-realism coming out of Europe at the time), it still has its moments of charm.