Vittorio De Sica / Italy / 1963 / 97 min
In an era when social mobility is on the decrease and “reality” television programmes seem to recruit their future Z-listers by financial coercion, we surely need to take a long critical look at ourselves. Fortunately, legendary Italian director, Vittorio De Sica, did this almost five decades ago. Il Boom (1963) charts the struggles of Giovanni Alberti (the iconic and unfaltering Alberto Sordi) to fund his glamorous wife’s appetite for luxury. However, when a respectable (rich) lady of society offers him a large sum of money for a certain body part, Giovanni is faced with a question: how much is money worth?
The eponymous “boom” refers to the Italian Economic Miracle, a period between the Korean War and OPEC crisis when Italy’s economic growth was second in Europe only to Germany’s (how times change), encouraging rampant consumerism. This forms the crux of De Sica’s trenchant critique, successful due in no small degree to Sordi’s superlative performance as the tragic parvenu, forced – often directly by others – to go to extremes for the sake of cash. Yet as if this wasn’t pertinent enough, the nepotism practiced among the businesses of Giovanni’s in-laws is also, worryingly, not so dissimilar from many of the financial deals carried out today. One only has to look to News Corp for a paradigm of what De Sica was warning against.
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