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Miracle In Milan
cast: Francesca Golisano, Brunella Bovo, Paolo Stoppa, Emma Gramatica, and Guglielmo Barnabo

director: Vittorio De Sica

93 minutes (U) 1951
Arrow DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 8/10
reviewed by Gary Couzens
Vittorio De Sica's film Bicycle Thieves became an instant classic, and established its director at the forefront of the Italian neo-realist movement. This, in its use of real locations and non-professional actors, had an immediate impact worldwide. Its influence continues: many films from the recent Iranian New Wave follow in this tradition. Although not without humour, Bicycle Thieves and its successors were ultimately serious dramas, with social points to make. Miracle In Milan, though it certainly uses the neo-realist style is less well known: it's not only a comedy but also an unabashed fantasy that for some reason genre critics have overlooked. It even begins "Once Upon a Time" with a baby boy found in a cabbage patch.

This child grows up to be Toto (Francesco Golisano). After his mother's death, and a spell in an orphanage, Toto emerges a good-hearted and possibly na�ve young man who eventually helps the poor people of Milan who are threatened by eviction. Then Toto discovers an ability to perform miracles. (Look out for a jaw-dropping pre-PC race joke that you wouldn't get away with nowadays.)

The plot of this film isn't much, being a series of gags and set pieces which De Sica propels at a fine pace, helped along no end by Alessandro Cicognini's score. More importantly, although I've no doubt that those are the real Milanese streets circa 1950 that we're seeing; De Sica and his collaborators succeed in creating a world of their own. The special effects (angels, ghosts, a ray of sunshine), for which De Sica imported Hollywood's Ned Mann, look blatantly artificial, but that's a key to their charm. And that's what the film has in abundance: charm, without descending into sentimentality, as De Sica would often do later in his career. Miracle In Milan is a delight.

Arrow's DVD preserves the film's original Academy ratio and Italian-language mono soundtrack. The black and white picture is the result of a recent restoration, and is generally very sharp, though some scenes show scratches and print damage. Subtitles are optional. Arrow have also provided some nice extras: newsreel footage of the film's premiere in Milan, interviews with the director's son Manuel De Sica and actor Brunella Bovo, poster artwork and lobby stills, and the theatrical trailer.
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