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The Children Are Watching Us (I Bambini Ci Guardano)

“Vittorio De Sica, having already appeared in a number of light comedies both on stage and in films, was in the 1930's a popular leading actor. In 1940 he decided to try his hand as a director. His first four films are not particularly interesting examples of the Camerini style - a familiar mixture of frivolity and sentimentality à la Chaplin. But the fifth picture, The Children Are Watching Us, surprised everybody. De Sica had turned into a vicious critic of the society he had so far amused.

“Here is the country of the triumphant bourgeoisie, which outwardly appears grandiose and dreams heroic dreams, but within conceals mediocrity, hypocrisy and sordid dealings. The dark side of the marital triangle is the theme which De Sica had so far exploited in the comedy vein. The mother of a four-year-old boy leaves her husband to follow another man. Then she returns and a brief reconciliation follows; but she continues to see her lover. The husband, unable to stand the humiliation and worrying over his son, commits suicide. The boy, lonely and unwanted, is sent to an orphanage where we part with him on the huge grim staircase.

“The script was written by six scenarists and although one of them, Zavattini, was to emerge as a driving force in the Italian cinema for many years to come, this is probably the reason why the structure of the film is somewhat loose, rather like a series of episodes. De Sica is cool, clinical and subdued; he leaves no room for light relief or for sentimental emphasis. As in the later Bicycle Thieves the social background of the story is, interestingly, carefully delineated and starkly realistic and thus all the more heartbreaking....”

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