A Garibaldian in the Convent

(Un garibaldino al convento)
Italy 1942. Director: Vittorio De Sica
Cast: Carla Del Poggio, María Mercader, Leonardo Cortese, Olga Vittoria Gentilli, Fausto Guerzoni

A true rarity! The early, pre-neorealist features of neorealist pioneer Vittorio De Sica (Bicycle Thieves, Umberto D.) are little known and seldom screened in the English-speaking world. Made during the Fascist period, and set during the Risorgimento, Un garibaldino al convento is, like De Sica’s other earliest films, a romantic comedy (but here tilting towards drama). The film, structured in flashback, has an elderly woman recalling her adolescence in a convent boarding school in the 1860s when a wounded Garibaldian partisan took refuge there. Carla Del Poggio plays Caterinetta, the young woman who comes to the soldier’s aid. María Mercader is Mariella, her schoolmate and rival. (Mercader and the already-married De Sica began a decades-long affair during the filming; they would eventually marry, in 1968. Mercader’s brother, Ramón, was Leon Trotsky’s assassin!) De Sica, also one of Italy’s great actors, appears in a small role as Nino Bixio, the famed military leader who was one of Garibaldi’s confidants and generals. (Bixio was a principal player in the violent historical events dramatized in Florestano Vancini’s Bronte, also screening in this series). “Palatable entertainment in its time . . . Mussolini jingoists and anti-Fascists alike could take heart from its theme of nationalistic liberation from the yoke of oppressive, opportunistic authority” (Bert Cardullo, Vittorio De Sica). B&W, 35mm, in Italian with English subtitles. 86 mins.

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Opening Night: Introduction by Paul Garfinkel On Friday, March 18, Paul Garfinkel will provide an introduction to  the Italian Risorgimento and to this film series. Dr. Garfinkel in an Assistant Professor in the Department of History at  Simon Fraser University. His areas of interest include modern Italian history, including legal and social history, and film and history.