Review: Vittorio De Sica's 1951 Heartwarming Drama 'Miracle in Milan' Shines on Blu-ray

by Sam Cohen

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Tuesday May 10, 2022

Review: Vittorio De Sica's 1951 Heartwarming Drama 'Miracle in Milan' Shines on Blu-ray

After Vittorio De Sica's landmark 1948 film "Bicycle Thieves" drew huge attention to the filmmaker, he had the tough task of making a follow-up. But to neorealism's credit, the possibilities were endless in capturing everyday Italian life after the fall of Mussolini's government. But instead of turning to another pointed story involving two central characters, he expanded the canvas to tell the story of the power of community with 1951's "Miracle in Milan."

The Criterion Collection brings Vittorio De Sica's "Miracle in Milan" to Blu-ray for the first time ever in the U.S. with an edition that boasts a brand-new 4K restoration of the film. Previous editions in the UK and other territories were produced about 10 years ago, giving this release a chance to improve with a newer and better transfer. For the most part, that's exactly what you get here. The black-and-white cinematography is given terrific depth and grain. No signs of edge enhancement seem to be used here, making for a terrific presentation altogether. There's a note about the restoration that states the interpositive was used when portions of the original negative were too distorted by age and wear, but there's not much damage to be found across the presentation.

In post-WWII Milan, Italy, a baby named Totò is found in a cabbage patch by an old woman and brought up by her. When the old woman passes away, the now-older Totò (Francesco Golisano) moves to an orphanage. And when he grows old enough, he leaves and ends up on the outskirts of Milan living with vagabonds. But when oil is discovered under the homeless camp he lives at, Totò flexes his talent of organization to organize his friends to fight against the land owner looking to get rich off the land.

Where the film lies in contrast to "Bicycle Thieves" is in the many whimsical ways it tries to weave fairy-tale elements throughout the story. De Sica seems impassioned here to show the beauty of life despite the overwhelming despair, even going as far to break neorealistic traditions to showcase that. The filmmaker's love for Charlie Chapin and René Clair is abundantly apparent here, although the film is anchored with De Sica's trademark love for humanity.

As for special features, Criterion rounds out this edition with a great 30-minute interview with scholar David Forgacs that provides terrific context to the production and reception of the film. Some features have been carried over from previous editions, plus the story the film is based upon is included in the attached booklet. If you're a fan of Vittorio De Sica, I highly recommend you seek this new Blu-ray edition out.

Other special features include:

• Audio interview from the late 1960s in which director Vittorio De Sica looks back on his career, conducted by film critic Gideon Bachmann

• Interviews with actor Brunella Bovo and Manuel De Sica, the director's son

• Feature-length documentary from 2019 on screenwriter Cesare Zavattini

• Trailers

• New English subtitle translation

• Plus: An essay by film critic Christina Newland

"Miracle in Milan" is now available on Blu-ray from the Criterion Collection.