Bitter Rice

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Riso amaro
Movies-Riso Amaro.jpg
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) 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 America. It was a product of the Italian neorealism style. The film was nominated for the 1950 Academy Award for Best Story. It was also entered into the 1949 Cannes Film Festival.[1] The Italian title of the film is based on a pun; since the Italian word riso means both "rice" and "laughter", riso amaro can be taken to mean either "bitter laughter" or "bitter rice".


Bitter Rice 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"[2] (known as "scabs") 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. Soon after, Walter tracks Francesca down at the rice fields and plots to steal rice from the storehouses during the celebration at the end of the planting season. Silvana is attracted by what she sees as the glamour of Walter's wealth, and becomes his new partner in crime. Francesca, meanwhile, is disenchanted with her former criminal lifestyle.



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 De Santis's condemnation of these products of American capitalism.[3]


  • Gundle, Stephen (September 18, 2007). Bellissima: Feminine Beaty and the Idea of Italy. Yale University Press. ISBN 9780300123876. 


  1. ^ "Riso Amaro". Festival de Cannes. Retrieved 2009-01-11. 
  2. ^ "TCM Turner Classics Movies Bitter Rice (Riso Amaro) Movie Clip". Retrieved 15 October 2011. 
  3. ^ Gundle 2007, p. 143

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