Italian filmmaker Vittorio De Sica is revered for his prodigious contributions to neorealism, as Shoeshine, Umberto D, and Bicycle Thieves have made their respective marks in cinema. A digital restoration of Il Boom, a 1963 comedy drama that has never before been released, is now playing at the Ahrya Fine Arts in Beverly Hills (July 21-27). Details on the film is featured after the jump!
Il Boom centers on Giovanni Alberti (Alberto Sordi), a hapless and dishonest executive who, following the post WWII economic “boom” l;ives way beyond his means. He hides his debt ridden situation to his wife Silvia (Gianna Maria Canale), a beautiful (and ultimately clueless) woman who basks in this luxurious, seemingly carefree lifestyle.
Giovanni and Silvia run in a circle of rich friends who are living “la dolce vita,” dancing, drinking, and sometimes wife-swapping the night away to their hearts content. Desperate to pay back his debts as well as land a sizable payday of his own, Giovannii strikes a perverse deal with an industrialist’s wife (Elena Nicolai) to give up his left eye for cold hard cash!
Sordi gives a wonderfully layered performance as Giovanni, a man whose lies and wasteful spending has ruined his family’s life. During the narrative’s first act we may be disgusted with Giovanni’s behavior, but thankfully Sordi brings enough depth to warrant a modicum of sympathy on our ends.
Il Boom is characterized as an Italian comedy, yet De Sica and screenwriter Cesare Zavattini have have much deeper motives at work. Though Giovanni’s dishonesty is appalling, a harsh light is subtly cast upon his self-serving wealthy friends, In an environment when a select few are controlling the cash flow, the middle class is left by the wayside or, in Giovanni’s case, living a lie just to keep appearances.
The movie is also beautifully shot, and it’d be a pleasure to see more filmmakers bring a visual sense to making comedies. For example, an important meeting between Giovanni and the industrialist’s wife, under lesser hands, would be an imaginative two-shot affair with tons of exposition. Thanks to De Sica’s eye, the camera moves as soon as Giovanni takes in the woman’s “eye” opening offer (the fluid motions of the camera parallel Giovanni’s own queasiness at the situation).
The main drama behind Il Boom is whether Giovanni will finally go through with the eye for cash exchange. It’s eventually handled in an understated manner by De Sica, showing us that even the most nightmarish engagements is conducted in plain sight.
***As you can see by the trailer below, the digital restoration is pitch perfect. Running a lean and mean 88 minutes, Il Boom is a comedy that packs an unexpected punch – it’s definitely worth a trip to Beverly Hills if you’re craving 1st rate cinema!!
*** For more info on Il Boom showtimes, go to Laemmle.com.