Once upon a time an old woman discovers a baby in her cabbage patch. She brings up the child and, when she dies, the boy, Toto, enters an orphanage. Toto leaves the orphanage a happy young man, and looks for work in post-war Milan. He ends up with the homeless and organizes them to build a shanty town in a vacant lot. The squatters discover oil in the land and Toto sees a vision of the old woman who gives him a magic dove that will grant him anything he wishes.
This obscure de Sica delivers the goods. And it is said "the meek shall inherit the earth." This tale of classes on the surface but really an allegory for all the homeless people that populated Europe after the great war. They are homeless but cheerful, in a societies too impoverished and selfish to care for or acknowledge them, footmats for the Italian carpetbaggers. de Sica chooses to tell it as a fairy tale, a Cinderella story. I have not read the book it is based on so I cannot foresay if the deus ex machina is the construct of the writer or Vittorio. It begins with the words, "Once upon a time..." to exemplify the timelessness of its tale, for the story could be set anywhere and everywhere. Caricature sketches of the aristocracy that cut to the bone, whimsical nature of the homeless especially when they begin to grant their wishes and an ending right out of a Spielberg picture makes this boulange a delight for all. De Sica's most accessible picture is also one of his best. Abandoning neo-realism, he always dallied between that and pure good old film-making, he creates a movie that breaks the heart and at the same time fills it with the yearning of hope that one needs to continue leaving in this world. Gracias Vittorio! Gracias! Gracias!!! Gracias!!!!!!!!!!!!
Reviewed by planktonrules9 / 10
a wonderful film--one of De Sica's best
This is a really strange film--and that is NOT a bad thing. It is a combination of a neo-realistic film about the homeless AND a fairy tale. I'm sure that some may find this movie a bit too strange, but I loved it. Once again, this director brings together a wonderful cast of everyday people (not actors) and gets a great ensemble-type performance. Although not nearly as sad as Umberto D, both movies have a very similar point to make--this one just does it in a very absurdist way. Ignore the cheesy special effects--after all, it was made in the early 1950s and special effects aren't terribly important anyway (or at least they shouldn't be in films). Instead, just sit back and enjoy the very strange and silly ride. Unless you are a total curmudgeon, you'll have a ball.
By the way, since I first reviewed this film, I have seen another DeSica directed film that is an absolute must-see and that is THE CHILDREN ARE WATCHING US. While not a fantasy or light in spirit like MIRACLE IN MILAN, a great film nevertheless.
Reviewed by zetes10 / 10
Weird and wonderful step away from Neorealism by Vittorio de Sica and Cesare Zavattini
Perhaps the last film you would expect to come from Vittorio de Sica and Cesare Zavattini (who wrote the novel on which this film is based). It's a neorealist fantasy, kind of an oxymoron, really. An old woman finds a baby in her cabbage patch and raises him as her own son. After a few years, the baby is a young boy (named Toto) and the adoptive mother is dying. He goes to an orphanage and, when he finally turns 18, he leaves. Immediately, he finds that he has no home. Toto is optimistic, though, and won't let anything get him down. A man steals his valise, and instead of getting angry over it, Toto becomes his friend and goes and stays with him in a small shantytown. Toto takes some initiative and organizes the many homeless living in the area and they build a better shantytown. Soon, the landowner is trying to sell this plot of land, and the citizens of the shantytown have to protect themselves. After many attempts, the owner mounts a force of police to get rid of the homeless. At this point, the film becomes full-fledged fantasy (before this it was more comedic/fantastic melodrama in the style of Charlie Chaplin). This stuff is so weird and shocking that it's probably best for others to see it for themselves. It's quite amazing, and very funny. There are objections you could raise about the plot of Miracle in Milan, most certainly. Fellini and Visconti were greatly criticized when they started to stray from Neorealism. I think I read this was widely criticized at the time of its release. At this point, though, it's so enjoyable - I loved it very much. It might be my favorite of Vittorio de Sica's films, although Umberto D and The Bicycle Thieves come very, very close. 10/10.