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Il Boom (free)

  • Vilas Hall 821 University Avenue Madison, WI, 53706 United States (map)

Vittorio De Sica may be best known for the Italian neorealist masterpiece Bicycle Thieves (1948), but his body of work is surprisingly diverse. In a new Stateside release/restoration from Rialto Pictures, UW Cinematheque is presenting one of De Sica's most undersung gems, the razor-sharp black comedy Il Boom (1963). Using the basis of Italy's real post-WWII economic boom, De Sica and screenwriter Cesare Zavattini fashion a satirical plot of Kubrickian proportions involving a once-modest building contractor, Giovanni Alberti (Alberto Sordi), who is consumed in the rapidly modernizing country's lap of luxury. Addicted to the instant gratification and frills of high society, Giovanni and his equally spendthrift wife Silvia (Gianna Maria Canale) quickly find themselves buried in a mountain of debt. As Giovanni becomes desperate to pay off a loan, he submits himself to the desires of the exceedingly well-off Mrs. Bausetti (Elena Nicolai). While their initial contact seems to promise a common liaison, he soon discovers that she weirdly wants him to undergo an experimental procedure for his eyeball. Il Boom is especially fascinating to watch, thanks to the way De Sica sustains a tense, comedic tone when the story itself threatens to veer into medical-horror territory. Instead, its skewering of the vacuous aspiration to attain a "respectable life" solely by keeping up appearances will appeal to fans of Fellini's La Dolce Vita (1960) and Pietrangeli's I Knew Her Well (1965), which the Cinematheque also screened just last year. —Grant Phipps

Later Event: July 20
Bent Knee