What follows is certainly not an exhaustive list. I have simply listed 18 films that I have seen and
consider worthwhile for one reason or another. That is, if I were to start a collection of films set in
Naples, I would include these.I have not included any film in the vast repertoire of the
. See that term in the encyclopedia.)
In chronological order:
--Paisŗ (Paisan, 1946, dir. Roberto Rossellini)
One of the great films of postwar Italian
Neorealism. It is an "episode" film with six vignettes, all focusing on the relationship between the
recently liberated Italians and their American liberators. The most popular vignette seems to be one
that takes place in Naples.
--Sciusciŗ (Shoe Shine, 1947, dir. Vittorio de Sica)
Another classic of Neorealist
cinema. It deals with the lives of the scugnizzi, Neapolitan street children at the end of WW II. The
title, itself, is the local pronunciation of the word "shoe shine"-which is how many such children
tried to grind out a living.
--Napoli Milionaria (Naples Millionaire, 1950, dir. Eduardo de Filippo)
the great playwright De Filippo is about Naples and worth seeing. This is his own screenplay from
his own stage play. He stars in it, as well, as a Neapolitan streetcar conductor involved in other
--L'Oro di Napoli (The Gold of Naples, 1954, dir. V. DeSica)
Based on the book by
Marotta, this is another episode film and easily the most popular one among Neapolitans
themselves. Various sides of Neapolitan culture are presented, all of them worth laughing and
thinking about. Stars the great comic, TotÚ, Sofia Loren, De Sica, himself, and Eduardo De Filippo,
who gives his infamous demonstration on the proper way to render the rude, hand-blown
--Tarantella Napoletana (1954, dir. Camillo Mastrocinque)
This was only the second
color film made in Italy. It was billed as a "musical" on the level of the "great American musical
comedies." Small difference: this one has no story at all. It's still worth seeing, though, since it is a
very well-done selection of choreographed songs about Naples.
--Miseria e nobiltŗ (Misery and Nobility, 1954, dir. Mario Mattoli )
A film version of a
well-known play from 1888 by Eduardo Scarpetta, master of the slapstick farce. He created the
character of the likeable scatterbrain, Felice Sciosciammocca, played here by TotÚ. The film also
features the young Sophia Loren. The plot involves poverty-stricken Felice and his friend, don
Pasquale, masquerading as aristocratic relatives of a young woman in order to get her parents
approval for a marriage to a young prince.
--La banda degli onesti (Honest crooks, 1956, dir. C. Mastrocinque)
about three average Joes who decide to become counterfeiters. Stars TotÚ, Peppino de Filippo, and
Giacomo Furia. The scene of the three of them using a children's "count-out rhyme" to see who has
to try to cash their first phony banknote is worth the price of admission.
--La sfida (The Challenge, 1958, Francesco Rosi)
Hard-hitting, it was the first of the
films about the Mafia and crooked politicians. It won a prize at the 1958 Venice Film Festival in
spite of pressure not to screen it.
--La baia di Napoli (It started in Naples, 1960, dir. Melville Shavelson)
Loren and Clark Gable. Romantic comedy about falling in love on Capri. Absolute fluff and
absolutely delightful. Contains one of the most popular Italian songs of the last 50 years, "Tu vuo'
fa' l'Americano" (roughly: "You try so hard to be an American").
--Matrimonio all'italiana (Marriage, Italian Style, 1964, dir. V. de Sica)
This is de
Sica's masterful rendition of Eduardo de Filippo's stage-play, Filumena Maturano, the story of an
ingenious ex-prostitute (Sophia Loren) who gets her common-law husband (Marcello Mastroiani) to
marry her by revealing to him that he is the father of one of her three sons. To ensure that he treats
all three equally, she refuses to tell him which one.
--Avanti (1972, dir. Bill Wilder)
The funniest film set in Naples (ok, technically, the
island of Ischia) ever made by a non-Italian. It is underrated, but as perfect a comedy, in its own
way, as Wilder's great Some Like it Hot. Stars Jack Lemmon and Juliet Mills. Secondary roles are
magnificent, including Edward Andrews as an obnoxious US diplomat. The original title is the
Italian word "Avanti" (meaning "come in"). That word (in the sense of "Forward" is, however, also
the title of the Italian Comunist party newspaper; thus, the Italian release of the film was hobbled by
an awful title, which translates as "What Happened Between My Father and Your Mother". What
can I say? It's still a great film.
--Lucky Luciano (1974, dir. F. Rosi)
Another Rosi film about crime and power. Stars
Gian Maria VolentŤ as the infamous gangster in Naples after being deported from the United States.
--Signore e signori, buonanotte (Ladies and Gentlemen, Good Night, 1976, dir. Leo
Benvenuti and others)
Relatively unknown abroad, this is an episode film, each one a satire
on some aspect of life in Naples. Impressive cast includes Marcello Mastroiani, Ugo Tognazzi,
Vittorio Gassman, Nino Manfredi, and Paolo Villaggio. Most memorable scene is of Neapolitan
politicians gorging themselves on a gigantic cake made to resemble the bay and city of Naples.
--Ricomincio da tre (1980, Massimo Troisi)
The late Massimo Troisi was the most
popular Neapolitan comic since TotÚ. This was his first hit film. He wrote it, directed it and starred
in it. Essentially, it is about his adventures as he moves from Naples to Florence. The title, "I'm
starting from three" is a pun on "to start from zero"-i.e. "to start over." This is a chance to hone
your language skills; Troisi delivers all of his lines in Neapolitan dialect.
--La pelle (The Skin, 1981, dir. Liliana Cavani)
Based on the book by Curzio
Malaparte, the film is a collection of bitter memories about the Allied liberation of Naples. With
Burt Lancaster and Marcello Mastroiani.
--CosŪ parlÚ Bellavista (Thus Spake Bellavista, 1984, dir. Luciano De Crescenzo)
De Crescenzo directs a film based on his own best-selling book. Explores the differences in being
from the south and the north in Italy, one of De Crenscenzo's favorite topics. He is, at the moment,
the most popular living writer from Naples and has authored a number of quirky, humorous
"histories of philosophy" for Everyman.
--Io speriamo che me la cavo (Ciao, Professore! 1993, dir. Lina Wertmuller)
performance by Paolo Villaggio as a northern grade-school teacher who winds up in the Neapolitan
outback. He learns to understand the dialect and, most importantly, to understand the lives of his
impoverished school children. The film is based on a series of real grade-school essays by local
pupils--thus the grammatical error in the title.
--Ferdinando e Carolina (1999, L. Wertmuller)
The film is, in Wertmueller's words, a
"libertine comedy" about a very unfunny period in the history of the Kingdom of Naples, the period
before the French Revolution when the young, oafish, and virile Ferdinand IV was running around
the woods hunting while his very able and ruthless wife, Caroline of Hapsburg, was making plans
to run the kingdom.