Sog.: dal romanzo Totò il buono (1943) di Cesare Zavattini. Scen.: Cesare Zavattini, Vittorio De Sica, Suso Cecchi D’Amico, Mario Chiari, Adolfo Franci. F.: Aldo Graziati. M.: Eraldo Da Roma. Scgf.: Guido Fiorini. Mus.: Alessandro Cicognini. Int.: Francesco Golisano (Totò), Emma Gramatica (Lolotta), Paolo Stoppa (Rappi), Guglielmo Barnabò (Mobbi), Brunella Bovo (Edvige), Arturo Bragaglia (Alfredo), Anna Carena (Marta), Alba Arnova (la statua che prende vita), Flora Cambi (l’innamorata infelice), Virgilio Riento (il sergente delle guardie). Prod.: Vittorio De Sica per Produzioni De Sica, ENIC – Ente Nazionale Industrie Cinematografiche. DCP. D.: 100’. Bn.
Miracolo a Milano is a lyrical work in which the struggle for a home is presented as a fantasy. We find ourselves in a shantytown whose inhabitants are in constant battle with a powerful capitalist. The form is both markedly realistic and open to subtle surrealist touches. In their most significant films, Vittorio De Sica and Cesare Zavattini were able to animate objects in a way that had seldom been seen since the German films of the 1920s written by Carl Mayer. Here items are are often inexplicably strange, displaced: a sewing machine, a sofa, an accordion.
The fairytale here is both a means of crystallization and a vehicle of evasion. The comedy of citizenship: vanishing virtues whose place in the harsh circumstances of the post-war world survives only in fantasy. Cruel irony is inherent in an account of a world: a profound comment from De Sica and Zavattini, who were riding an extraordinary current of inspiration. Fantasy provides a refuge for the better angels of our nature hovering over the chilly everyday.
The vision is comic in quite a fundamental and original sense. The account of sickness, hunger, disability and poverty is entirely without fake poeticism. Instead it is portrayed through creative and original gags: a poor person so light that he rises to the sky carried by an air balloon. More than ever before, the accumulated ‘Fellinian’ grotesques build into an affectionate survey of the extraordinary versatility of humanity. The same comic vision assumes even wider historical and political dimensions. Mussolini-era ornamentalisms and customs abound. Bureaucracy – always an object of particular contempt for De Sica – gets special treatment, as does the often physical confrontation between the poor and the police (who are, undoubtedly, poor devils themselves).
The tone is gentle and yet unmitigated: substantial like a true fairytale, not squishy in the current sense of the word, where it is often watered-down, regressed. Affinities emerge with figures from Francis of Assisi to Fellini’s Gelsomina.
Peter von Bagh’s posthumous notes (2014), translated by Antti Alanen