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Bitter Rice (1949)

Riso amaro (original title)
Not Rated | | Drama | 18 September 1950 (USA)
Francesca and Walter are two-bit criminals in Northern Italy, and, in an effort to avoid the police, Francesca joins a group of women rice workers. She meets the voluptuous peasant rice ... See full summary »

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Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 1 nomination. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
Walter (as Vittorio Gassmann)
...
...
Silvana
...
Checco Rissone ...
Aristide
Nico Pepe ...
Beppe
Adriana Sivieri ...
Celeste
Lia Corelli ...
Amelia
Maria Grazia Francia ...
Gabriella
Dedi Ristori ...
Anna
Anna Maestri ...
Irene
Mariemma Bardi ...
Gianna
Maria Capuzzo ...
Giulia
Isabella Marincola ...
Rosa (as Isabella Zennaro)
Carlo Mazzarella ...
Gianetto
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Storyline

Francesca and Walter are two-bit criminals in Northern Italy, and, in an effort to avoid the police, Francesca joins a group of women rice workers. She meets the voluptuous peasant rice worker, Silvana, and the soon-to-be-discharged soldier, Marco. Walter follows her to the rice fields, and the four characters become involved in a complex plot involving robbery, love, and murder. Written by Laura Ernestina Ruberto <lruberto@ucsd.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

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An earthy drama of human passions among women rice workers in the Po Valley.

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Drama

Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »
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Details

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Release Date:

18 September 1950 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Bitter Rice  »

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

(Western Electric)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Lucia Bosé was the director's first choice for the role of Silvana. It wasn't until he met Silvana Mangano by chance that he decided to cast her in the film. De Santis also wanted Mangano to appear in his next picture Under the Olive Tree (1950) but when she got pregnant, she was replaced by Bosé. See more »

Connections

Referenced in Schlock! The Secret History of American Movies (2001) See more »

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User Reviews

 
Just misses being a masterpiece
16 October 2011 | by (Columbia, South Carolina, USA) – See all my reviews

The principal flaw of this film is the performance of Doris Dowling, mistakenly cast in the role of Francesca. Dowling seems capable of only one facial expression, something between a scowl and a sneer. Why such a wooden American actress was cast in this role when there were so many budding actresses in Italy at the time must remain a mystery.

This film ranks just below such classics of the Italian neo-realist movement as The Bicycle Thief, Shoeshine, Open City, and La Strada. Turner Classic Movies is to be applauded for making this rarely seen gem available on their channel. There is a nearly show-stopping performance by Silvana Mangano, a performance that must have been electrifying at the time. Earthy, sensual, voluptuous, Mangano performs with unshaven armpits which she puts on full display when she puts her hands behind her head. This was a gutsy move for an unknown actress who was a former beauty queen presumably aiming for stardom, but this little touch adds immeasurably to the brooding sense of poverty and desperation that pervade the film. It has been said that if Mangano had had more drive and been less controlled by her husband, Dino de Laurentiis, she might have achieved the stature of Loren and Lollobrigida. But alas, it was not to be. The only other notable performance of her career was in Visconti's Death in Venice.

If this film seems excessively proletarian, even Marxist, in its outlook, it is important to remember that Italy was impoverished after WWII and that the Communist Party very nearly came to power in 1948 and probably would have done so had it not been for CIA intervention. The crane shots and other camera work, as well as the superb acting of the women in the smaller roles, are masterful in depicting the drudgery of the toil of the women working in the rice fields. Other aspects of the camera work are masterful. Probably the most famous, or notorious, scene in the film is the one where Mangano takes a reed and playfully pokes Vittorio Gassman with it. Gassman's character is not amused; he takes the reed from her and proceeds to whip her with it repeatedly. Notice the way the camera moves with Gassman as he approaches her, then moves with Mangano as she tries to move away from him in terror. This is masterful camera work. The finale of the film, which I won't reveal here, is shattering as well. The acting of Gassman and Raf Vallone is superb as well.

Until recently this film was unavailable on DVD with English subtitles, but it has recently become available and can be ordered on Amazon. It would be a great addition to anyone's film library. And one final note: another reviewer cautioned parents that there is nudity in this film. This is incorrect. I think he is probably referring to the crane shot that shows the women bathing in the river. They do indeed appear nude, but if you look more closely you will see that they are wearing body stockings and are fully clothed.


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