Bitter Rice

Riso amaro

Theatrical poster
Directed by Giuseppe De Santis
Produced by Dino De Laurentiis
Written by Giuseppe De Santis
Carlo Lizzani
Gianni Puccini
Starring Vittorio Gassman
Doris Dowling
Silvana Mangano
Raf Vallone
Checco Rissone
Carlo Mazzarella
Music by Goffredo Petrassi
Cinematography Otello Martelli
Edited by Gabriele Varriale
Distributed by Lux Film Distributing Corporation
Release dates
  • 1949 (1949)
Running time
108 minutes
Country Italy
Language Italian

Bitter Rice (Italian: Riso Amaro [ˈriːzo aˈmaːro; ˈriːso]) is a 1949 Italian film made by Lux Film, written and directed by Giuseppe De Santis. Produced by Dino De Laurentiis, starring Silvana Mangano, Raf Vallone, Doris Dowling and Vittorio Gassman, Bitter Rice was a commercial success in Europe and the United States. It was a product of the Italian neorealism style. The Italian title of the film is based on a pun; since the Italian word riso can mean either "rice" or "laughter", riso amaro can be taken to mean either "bitter laughter" or "bitter rice".

Although Bitter Rice did not win any awards, it was nominated for the 1950 Academy Award for Best Story and entered into the 1949 Cannes Film Festival.


The film begins at the start of the rice-planting season in northern Italy. In an effort to escape the law, two small-time thieves, Francesca (Doris Dowling) and Walter (Vittorio Gassman), hide amongst the crowds of female workers heading to the rice fields of the Po Valley. While attempting to board the train for the fields, the pair runs into Silvana (Silvana Mangano), a peasant rice worker. Francesca boards the train with Silvana, who introduces her to the planter's way of life. Francesca does not have a work permit, and struggles with the other "illegals" to find a place on the rice fields. After initial resistance from documented workers and bosses, the scabs are allowed a place in the fields. At the fields, Silvana and Francesca meet a soon-to-be-discharged soldier, Marco (Raf Vallone), who unsuccessfully tries to attract Silvana's interest.

Toward the end of the working season, Walter arrives at the fields, intending to steal a large quantity of rice. Excited by his criminal lifestyle, Silvana becomes attracted to Walter. She causes a diversion to help him carry out the heist, but Francesca and Marco manage to stop Walter and his accomplices. Francesca and Silvana face each other, armed with pistols; Francesca confronts Silvana and explains that she has been manipulated by Walter. In response, Silvana turns her gun toward Walter and murders him. Soon afterward, her guilt leads her to commit suicide. As the other rice workers depart, they pay tribute to her by sprinkling rice upon her body.



In the film, the character Silvana represents enchantment with behavior modeled in American films, such as chewing gum and boogie-woogie dancing. Her downfall shows director Giuseppe De Santis's condemnation of these products of American capitalism.[2] In addition, Silvana was considered by many audiences to be overly-sexualized. This sexualization and the melodramatic presence of death and suicide in the film cause it to diverge from typical Italian neorealism.[3]

Awards and honors

Bitter Rice was entered into the 1949 Cannes Film Festival.[4] The film was nominated for Best Story in the 1950 Academy Awards.

The film was also selected as one of 100 Italian films to be saved, a collection of films that "changed the collective memory of the country between 1942 and 1978".[5] The collection was established by the Venice Film Festival in collaboration with Cinecittà and curated by Fabio Ferzetti, with input from Gianni Amelio and other Italian film critics. Many of the films selected represent the "Golden Age" of Italian cinema, which was manifested in the neorealist movement.[6]



  1. Although Simoneschi voiced over Mangano's speaking lines, Mangano provided her own singing voice.
  2. Gundle 2007, p. 143
  3. Marcus 1986, p. 79
  4. "Riso Amaro". Festival de Cannes. Retrieved 2009-01-11.
  5. "Ecco i cento film italiani da salvare". Corriere della Sera (in Italian). February 28, 2008. Retrieved September 24, 2014.
  6. Borriello, Massimo (March 4, 2008). "Cento film e un'Italia da non dimenticare" (in Italian). MoviePlayer. Retrieved September 25, 2014.

External links

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