Capital Celluloid 2024 — Day 149: Thu May 30

Bitter Rice (De Santis, 1949): BFI Southbank, NFT2, 8.15pm

This 35mm presentation, also screening on May 22nd, is part of the Italian Neorealism season at the cinema. Full details here.

New Yorker review:
The early-generation genre mashup “Bitter Rice,” from 1949, fuses the class-based politics—and the on-location authenticity—of neorealism with a smoldering romantic melodrama. It’s centered on the seasonal employment of migrant farmworkers—all women—in the rice paddies of northern Italy. A jewel thief and housemaid named Francesca (Doris Dowling), who’s hiding a stolen necklace, takes refuge with a crew of farmhands, working alongside them and living with them in requisitioned military barracks. Francesca is befriended by a younger laborer named Silvana (Silvana Mangano), but tension arises when they both fall for an earnest army officer (Raf Vallone). Then a sharp operator named Walter (Vittorio Gassman)—Francesca’s partner in crime, lover, and employer—shows up at the farm. The film’s team of six screenwriters reveal, with journalistic avidity, details of the landowners’ predatory chicanery, conflicts between union and non-union workers, farmhands’ secret communications by way of song, and the women’s day-to-day lives and grim backstories. The director, Giuseppe De Santis, films the turbulent action with a blend of intimacy and spectacle, in exhilaratingly spontaneous dance scenes and shocking outbursts of violence alike.
Richard Brody

Here (and above) is the trailer.

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