A sleazy criminal named Walter (Gassman) is on the run from the police, and hands off stolen jewels to his girlfriend Francesca (Dowling). She hides out among women travelling to work the rice paddies in Northern Italy. Befriended by fellow worker Silvana (Mangano), Francesca is drawn to Marco (Vallone), a local soldier. But when Walter reappears on the scene, he only has eyes for the voluptuous Silvana. Soon Walter is drawing Silvana in to another criminal scheme, with potentially tragic consequences.
Just 19 years old when this film was released, Mangano became an overnight sensation due to her lusty, magnetic performance as the tragic heroine. With documentary-style flair and stunning locations, De Santis evokes poignant themes of post-war camaraderie in a striking neo-realist style. But underneath lurks corruption and frustrated desire. The passionate tug of war among the four protagonists keeps us glued to the screen; we can sense it will not end well, but that hardly lessens the suspense. Try this “Rice.”