Friday, June 23, 2017

Il Boom

Vittorio De Sica’s Bicycle Thieves (1948) took place in an impoverished post-war Rome. The director’s Il Boom (1963), currently revived at Film Forum, is set in a far more afffuent era of a rising bourgeoisie who dance the Hully Gully and twist to Chubby Checker. There are shades of La Dolce Vita (1960) particularly in the film’s bouncy musical score, though the world of Il Boom is more aspirational and middle class than the Fellini classic inured as it is in the world of a decadent aristocracy. However the tone of the director’s later outing is curiously reminiscent of the loss and despair that hangs over Bicycle Thieves, one of the classics of Italian cinema. In fact it's almost worse. The character played so magnificently by the great comic actor Alberto Sordi mortgages his existence literally and metaphorically to keep up with his peers. Finally he ends up selling one of his eyes to pay off his debts and save his marriage. It's the biblical eye for an eye turned to bizarrely surrealistic effect; the sentimentality and dejection faced by the father and son in Bicycle Thieves becomes a genuine tristesse in Il Boom. Sordi’s comparatively superficial mercantile character (Alberti) has come a long way and so has more to lose. In the final scene he bolts and the team of doctors who are to perform the procedure trail him out of the clinic and into the traffic. It’s a masterpiece of humor that perfectly captures both the predicament and ultimate entrapment of De Sica's character.

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