Italy has a long and storied cinematic history that climaxed in the 1960s and continues to produce memorable films today. No country has won more Best Foreign Film Oscars and streaming a few can provide an enticing glimpse of Italy and build excitement before departure.
Bicycle Thieves (1948) Vittorio De Sica
The premise is simple but the result is an all-time classic that depicts the mood of a country still recovering from World War 2. It’s the tale of injustice and the struggle to survive in a city with little to laugh about. Different strata of Roman society are depicted along with an epic relationship between a desperate father and his faithful son.
La Dolce Vita (1959) Federico Fellini
This masterpiece marks a turning point in Italian cinema away from the past and towards a rapidly brightening future. The good life however is tainted for the protagonist played by Marcello Mastroianni who spends his days following second-rate movie stars and aging aristocrats. The film coined the word paparazzi and earned Fellini the second of four Oscars. Every scene is iconic and the midnight dip in the Fontana di Trevi is ingrained in popular culture.
Caro Diaro (1993) Nanni Moretti
Moretti is as close as an Italian actor/director gets to Woody Allen. His fear of death isn’t quite as intense but his acute awareness of how things are and how they should be are just as sharp. The film is a cinematic triptych that begins with a meandering moped ride through the deserted streets of Rome accompanied by a Keith Jarrett sound track and itinerant monologue pondering cinema, sociology and urban planning. Like Allen it’s an acquired taste but the visuals remain captivating even with the volume off.
Gomorra (2008) Matteo Garrone
For violence and modern criminal clans that break Hollywood clichés you can’t get much grittier than Gomorra. It’s not pretty but a lot of it is true and the writer of the book, that inspired the film, has been under witness protection since publication nearly a decade ago. There’s little hope or redemption here just a perverse system that corrupts everything in its path.
La Grande Bellezza (2013) Paolo Sorrentino
Italy’s latest Oscar winning film owes a lot to the city in the background. Rome appears highly stylized and there are plenty of day and night scenes revealing its majestic beauty. The hedonistic storyline may divide opinion but the cinematography is beyond repute.
Jeeg Robo (2016) Gabriele Mainetti
Italian cinema isn’t famous for science fiction and the number of films in the genre can be counted on two fingers. There is however a long tradition of comics and flawed anti heroes which some viewers may appreciate. The action takes place in the suburbs of Rome with some spectacular nighttime scenes including the protagonist standing on top of the Colosseum.
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on your next trip to Italy.