For Reel

Nobody’s Children (1951)
February 15, 2016, 2:37 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Raffaello Matarazzo
3.5 Stars
Nobody's ChildrenAlthough Raffaello Matarazzo had been all but forgotten by the time the Criterion Collection released a quartet of his post-war melodramas in 2011, in his day he found enormous success with Italian audiences, even out-performing legendary neorealist filmmakers like Rossellini and De Sica. It is somewhat simplistic to say that his films provided an alternative to the new push towards neorealism–although his films often utilized a traditional melodramatic sensibility, he set them in real, naturalistic environments. Look no further than the massive rock quarry in Nobody’s Children, which in its eminent threat is reflective of the way that the plot gives way to radical plot twists and turns of fate. While there is enough plot in the picture for twenty, the tropes are all familiar. There’s a pair of lovers, the forces who try to keep them apart, and finally the bastard child who will come to learn of his true parentage. Matarazzo shifts through these dynamics accessibly, sensationalizing the material to the extreme in sequences involving a roaring fire and an avalanche. If the soap-operatic quality of the picture is the root of its pleasure, the landscapes (including the aforementioned quarry and long, lonely village roads) keep it earthbound. The two sensibilities seem at odds with each other, but it is these very incongruities that make it memorable.

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