Umberto D.

I fixed my lunch and went over to the record store and bought a DVD set of the first season of “M*A*S*H” and a CD of Greg Hawkes playing ukulele versions of Beatles songs.  I worked for five hours, then sat down and listened to the Warriors game on the radio.  I didn’t think that they would lose, even though the score was close at the end.  I watched the Criterion Collection Blu-ray disc of Vittorio De Sica’s “Umberto D.”  It was a true classic in cinema history, and a movie without the excessive garbage that you see in countless mediocre films.  It has many similarities with “Bicycle Thieves.”  We see an old man and a dog instead of a father and son.  Umberto is retired from government work, and his pension is not enough to cover his living expenses.  It’s interesting that we don’t see the origins of his problems.  I wouldn’t think that this man would be a lavish spender, however.  He’s being booted out of his room by his heartless landlady.  He goes around desperately trying to raise money by selling possessions like a watch.  Maria is the maid in Umberto’s house, and she is one of his only friends.  She isn’t in a position to help him out, and she is on the verge of being in the same situation as Umberto, as she is pregnant.  One of the painful shots in the film is that last image of Maria looking down from a window at Umberto.  I wondered what happened in real life to the girl who played Maria.  I read that she died in 2012.  Umberto’s real friend is his dog Flick.  One of the brilliant scenes shows Umberto considering the idea of begging for money.  He can’t do it, but then he puts his hat in Flick’s mouth.  He can’t force the dog to do something demeaning.  The scene is like something out of a Chaplin film, but sadder.  The sequence where Umberto searches for Flick is reminiscent of the father’s search for the bicycle in “Bicycle Thieves.”  Umberto has to find the poor little dog before the dog pound captures him and put him to death.  The last part of the film after Umberto leaves the house is extremely powerful and perhaps Vittorio De Sica’s greatest work.  Umberto considers suicide.  It was a moment that made me think of Frank Capra.  I thought perhaps that Umberto could move to a place where he didn’t have to pay an outrageous amount of rent, and that he could continue to live.  Maybe I shouldn’t have been so optimistic.  I thought of Marie Hatch, the 97-year-old woman in Burlingame who was in the news when she received a 60-day eviction notice.  She told a reporter that she didn’t have the slightest idea of where she would go, and that was why she wasn’t sleeping at night.  She had lived at 625 California Drive since 1950.  She died on March 3.  When I looked at Marie Hatch’s Eviction Fund, I saw that there was $45,505 in it.  I thought about Umberto’s attempts to get a loan.  It seemed like everyone was in a hurry to catch a bus.  If I could take only one of “Bicycle Thieves” or “Umberto D.” with me to a desert island, it would be difficult to choose.  I might go for the latter because I like the old man and the dog so much.  I think that I have seen only four of De Sica’s films that he made after “Umberto D.”  They were “Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow,” “Woman Times Seven,” “The Garden of the Finzi-Continis,” and “A Brief Vacation.”  Along the way, De Sica managed to make one of the worst movies of all time, “A Place for Lovers.”  I am curious about it because of its reputation, and its pairing of Marcello Mastroianni with Faye Dunaway.  I wasn’t able to find a copy on Amazon.  I did see that Stanley Donen’s “Movie Movie” is going to be released on Blu-ray on June 28.  De Sica gambled and lost a lot of money.  He was 73 when he died on November 13, 1974.  He was one of the greatest Italian directors, and arguably the greatest.  I’ll always remember how he was mentioned in “American Splendor.”  Some of the people who died on May 12 include Erich von Stroheim (1957), Robert Reed (1992), Perry Como (2001), Syd Hoff (2004), Robert Rauschenberg (2008), and H.R. Giger (2014).  Today is a birthday for Emilio Estevez (54) and Ving Rhames (57).  According to the Brandon Brooks Rewind radio segment for May 12, Paul McCartney released his single “Mary Had a Little Lamb” in 1972.  In 1973, Led Zeppelin reached Number One on the album chart with “Houses of the Holy.”  In 1989, “See No Evil, Hear No Evil,” starring Richard Pryor and Gene Wilder, was released.

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