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on 2 April 2011
Having been fortunate enough to find this when the asking price had temporarily dropped below £10, I was very pleased to acquire a boxset containing five films, each of which has received significant amounts of praise from one quarter or another.

Vittorio De Sica dominates this set, with three of the five films and, indeed, it is a necessity that any prospective cinephile should become acquainted with his work. Bicycle Thieves and Umberto D. are perhaps most representative of the Italian neorealistic movement with their use of non-professional actors, natural lighting and stories based very heavily on real life in 1940s/50s Italy. Both are top class. The third of his films here, Miracle in Milan, is somewhat different as it meshes harsh reality with fantastic elements, to create what has been called a "neorealist fable". Personally, I enjoyed it less, but it did receive the Grand Prix at Cannes in its day and is probably worth watching for the iconic final scene alone. De Sica was a master and these are three of his most feted works, the two major others being Shoeshine (available from Masters of Cinema) and the Garden of the Finzi-Continis (yet to find a good copy).

Fellini's I Vitelloni was cited by Kubrick as one of his favourite films and it is easy to see why. A relatively simple tale of the dynamics of a group of friends growing up in post-war Italy, with various trials and tribulations, is nonetheless enthralling and a good introduction to the director, whose later films (8 1/2, La Dolce Vita etc.) can be less accessible.

Finally, there is the ultimate classical neorealist film - Rome, Open City. This is to Italian neorealism what Breathless is to the French new-wave or Nosferatu is to German expressionism. It is, as such, a shame that the greatness of this movie is obscured by a poor DVD transfer (the American, censored version) with subtitles definitely lacking, making the film more difficult to follow than it should be. I found this despite having a basic knowledge of Italian which allowed me to understand some of what the subtitles were omitting... Despite these flaws, it is still clearly a well-made film and the great scenes in particular do not lose much of their power.

All things considered, I would recommend this as these are five worthwhile cinematic experiences which are a rarity in that they are both critically acclaimed, well-made films and very easy to watch. A good introduction to a very important phase of film history, particularly whilst so many of the Rosselini films (Paisan, Europa '51 etc.) are so scarcely/expensively available in the UK.
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on 19 August 2010
I am guilty of being an admirer of Italian cinema in general and its neo-realist period in particular so I hope I do not sound too biased. This boxset offers 5 of the best neo-realist films ever: Vittorio de Sica's BICYCLE THIEF rated the best film ever made at a 1960 vote by film directors, actors and other members of the film community; Vittorio de Sica's MIRACLE IN MILAN, a "surreal" example of neo-realism; de Sica's UMBERTO D, his own favourite film with the central character reportedly based on his father, a truly universal message about the pitfalls and oblivion of old age; Rosselini's ROME, OPEN CITY, a sublime film dealing with the end of the German presence in Italy at the end o World War II; and Fellini's best film, I VITELLONI, perhaps my favourite in the whole lot. At this price you could not do much better...
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on 13 June 2014
If you wish to understand either Neo-realism or what Italy was like just after the war, then this is an excellent start. Although it leaves out a couple of classics (like Sciuscià), it does include the bicycle thief, deemed to be the emblematic representative of this genre. Italian cinema of this time is important not only in understanding later Italian cinema and tradition, but wider cinema in general, both European and -- belatedly somewhat -- even that of the USA. This form of cinema represents the start of a cinematic tradition that continues today and which was referred to throughout the past 60 years, even by the likes of the great Kurosawa as far away as Japan. I am lucky that I speak Italian, so I could listen rather than have to read the subtitles (which in some places convey the meaning but not the full intent of what is said), although those I watched it with -- including several Chinese -- did not see this as a problem and absolutely both "got" the films as well as loved them.
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on 12 March 2011
Around 50% of the dialogue is not subtitled bizarrely, as though the translator could only speak a bit of Italian. This is very frustrating for me, since I'm writing an essay on the Bicycle Thieves, and need all possible detail. The films have skipped a couple of times too, but with no scratches on the disk. Basically the transfer onto dvd was a piss poor attempt.
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on 14 January 2007
If you have the remotest interest in powerful character driven cinema and a mindset which is open to other cultures, in this boxset you will find five of the most enthralling masterpieces of Italian neo-realist cinema.

In some, nothing much happens, but this is exactly the point! The directors of the neo realist movement captured on film the essence of the raw emotions and challenges of everyday life in post-war Italy, often using non professional actors which resulted in some of the most mesmerising images and stories in cinema.

Do yourself a favour and buy this.
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on 30 November 2007
All five of these films are classics of post-war Italian cinema. These are must-see films for any students of neo-realism. Shot on low budgets often with amateur actors, they convey the harsh realities of Italy after World War II. These films brim with humanity and even today cannot fail to move the audience.
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on 26 April 2013
films how they should be made. the son in bicycle thieves is one of the best characters in film. I would recommend to anyone who's taste for cinema has gone stale on a diet of insipid rom coms or action movies aimed at the lowest common denominator.
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on 9 April 2015
Brilliant book. Loved it. Definitely worth a read!
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on 1 January 2014
As a film lecturer I hadn't seen or used these films for a long time. I am struck by how the stories are so moving and so intimate. The use of 'real people' as actors added to the social messages of film makers like De Sica. The films are enjoyable as classics in their own right and now specialist knowledge is required to enjoy them. Umberto D and Bicycle Thieves will move you to tears - wonderful film making at a difficult time in Italy's history.
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on 22 October 2014
Five miracles!
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