Miracolo a Milano (Miracle in Milan) (1951)
Vittorio DeSica's follow-up to The Bicycle Thief documents the lives of the poverty-stricken in post-war Italy. Francesco Golisano is Good Toto, an orphan boy who begins living with a cluster of beggars. His organizational efforts bring some structure to the colony and engenders a sense of faint happiness among its morose dwellers. When Toto is given a magic dove by a fairy, he uses its wish-granting powers to whoever asks, but the dove is eventually stolen. As a result, the land on which the beggars live is taken over, and they are jailed. In his prison, however, the dove returns to Toto, and his wish for the freedom of his friends is granted. … More
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Critic Reviews for Miracolo a Milano (Miracle in Milan)
A quintessential work of Italian neo-realism, De Sica's post-WWII fable displays his humanistic ideology through the tale of an orphan granted magical powers.
Audience Reviews for Miracolo a Milano (Miracle in Milan)
You would be well within your rights to hate "Miracle in Milan." The film turns goofier and goofier as it proceeds and, by the last half-hour, it's such a delirious fantasy that it may draw unintended laughs. But we're suckers for this sort of feel-good tale, and if the movie were American rather than Italian, it might have "It's a Wonderful Life" status today.
The story tips its hand from the start, opening with an old woman (Emma Gramatica) finding a baby in a cabbage patch. No kidding. Clearly, this will not be another of director Vittorio De Sica's grim, neo-realist dramas. (Like most of the cast, Gramatica overacts so much that her character borders on lunacy.)
Several years pass. The woman dies, and her harvested son Toto (Francesco Golisano) is sent to an orphanage. After another jump in time, he emerges from the facility as a young adult. He strolls into the outside world with an idealistic grin, naively tipping his hat to everyone he passes.
Poverty is rampant, and a grizzled pauper soon steals Toto's bag. But hardships have a mysterious way of turning around for this plucky Christ figure: Toto goes after the thief, befriends him and ends up being welcomed to the local shantytown.
Erected on a dry vacant lot, this makeshift neighborhood hosts a good-natured population that values life's small pleasures. One memorable scene finds an excited group huddled on a spot where a sunbeam has broken through the clouds. And when a life-size statue is found in the trash, it's re-erected as a landmark. Elsewhere, the people scramble for pocket change in various trivial ways such as selling junk, telling fortunes (the man repeats the same platitudes to everyone) and charging a pittance for seats to watch the sunset.
Once Toto settles here, he quickly becomes a community leader with his kindness, creativity and cheerful spirit. He also builds a sweet romance with a mousy girl named Edvige.
Meanwhile, the landowner been generously tolerant of all these squatters, but his attitude changes when oil begins spurting from multiple holes on the property. The residents are immediately pressured to leave. But then arrives the titular "miracle" -- one of the most perfect examples of a "deus ex machina" in film history. Explaining more would be a spoiler, but be advised that Toto's lucky twists of fate turn outright magical. The final scene is wholly predictable, just because this fairy tale couldn't end any other way.
"Miracle in Milan" has plenty of absurdist laughs -- hexed policemen singing opera, a tethered baby who serves as a doorbell, a policeman who dangles outside a window to report wind conditions, an outdated gag about a mixed-race couple -- but adds a sharp jab here and there. One satirical scene shows a merchant hiring beggars to say "Fano chocolate is the best" as they panhandle. Ouch. Or did such things really happen?
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