Gold of Naples (L’Oro de Napoli)
Directed by Vittorio De Sica
Starring Sophia Loren, Silvana Mangano
1955, Italian (with subtitles)
While Hollywood trembled in fear of television, the Italians gleefully cheated on their taxes and made cinema into art. Gold Of Naples presents four short, simple reflections on the humor and pathos of life.
We open with “Don Saverio,” a family man saddled with a mooching racketeer houseguest. After 10 years, you’d think this guy would pick up the phone bill, but all he does is berate Saverio’s wife and co-opt the kids. When Don Carmine thinks his heart is failing, out he goes. Joy rules the neighborhood until the heart attack improves to indigestion. Can he move back? Nope – the kids realize the real daddy is so much nicer.
“Pizza on Credit” features a young and lusty Sophia Loren selling pizzas on time (sort of like college loans) with her dumpy husband. She’s foolishly left her wedding ring at her lover’s place when she blew off Mass for a quickie. Is it in a pizza, and can it be recovered? Or will we get to see her breasts, struggling to be free?
In “The Gambler,” aristocratic loser Count Prospero (De Sica himself) looses his mansion, country estate, and jacket to an 8-year old card shark. It’s not whether you win or lose, but whether you can keep playing.
Wrapping up is the heartbreaking “Theresa.” A young prostitute (Mangano) is swept up into an unexpected marriage with a handsome, well-to-do young man. It’s not lust but regret that brings him to her. He jilted another, only to have her kill herself. Now he swears to degrade himself by marrying a hooker, and letting the whole town know. Position and money without respect and love are intolerable, and make a hard choice for a hardening woman.
Despite the low contrast print, L’Oro represents a slice of real life; counterpoint to the fantasy world spun by the Technicolor dream makers in America. You may have heard about the vital Italian film scene of the 50’s and 60’s – it excited back then, and still gets your attention 50 years later.