Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Monday, 27 August 2012

Summer re-runs: Sophia & Marcello double bill

We enjoyed going to see YESTERDAY TODAY & TOMORROW at the old Plaza cinema in Piccadilly, London back in 1964 (the cinema is now a Tesco supermarket...). This actually won the Academy Award for best foreign film then [beating Demy's UMBRELLAS OF CHERBOURG, Bo Widerberg's RAVEN'S END, the Japanese WOMAN OF THE DUNES and Israeli SALLAH) and its not really surprising. It may be a lightweight souffle but it was the great era of international cinema. Nice to finally get a decent print of this one. It is of course 3 different stories, directed by Vittorio De Sica, and scripted by Eduardo de Fillipo and Cesare Zavattini.

First we have 'Adelina of Naples' - this is a very broad farce of 50 minutes with Loren enjoying herself hugely as the seller of contrabrand cigarettes in Naples, she stays out of prison by being continually pregnant, but after 7 kids her husband Carmine (Marcello) is worn out ..... this is all very amusing, and Vittorio is in his element too, some of the streets look familiar from his 1954 GOLD OF NAPLES.  The street urchins seem a bit too regimented though as they sing through the streets .... 
Then it is 'Anna of Milan' - which seems rather a parody of the Antonioni world, this is shot in a different style, as Anna the wealthy wife of an industrialist drives with her lover, but it turns out she is more interested in her car when he almost hits a child ..... a slight sketch (20 minutes) but amusing. Then maybe the best part, 'Mara of Rome', where Sophia is a call girl or well-to-do prostitute who gets involved with her neighbours and that young man who is thinking of becoming a priest, while her client Marcello gets more and more frustrated... then she does that striptease which leaves him whimpering. Its a fabulous apartment that overlooks the Vatican!

The success of this set up Loren and Mastroianni as a great cinema couple and their next one, 1965's MARRIAGE ITALIAN STYLE was even better, from the great Italian play "Filumena" by De Fillipo. Sophia is Filumena Marturano who tricks her longtime lover into finally marrying her as he thinks she is on her deathbed .... the bitter Filumena then tells him he is the father of one of her 3 sons, but will not say which. We get flashbacks of their wartime romance, how she runs his businesses, but he still won't make a respectable woman of her, and wants to marry someone else. He of course tries to find out which son is most like him ...
Domenico, a successful businessman, with an eye for the girls, begins an affair with Filumena when she is 17 years old. She becomes a prostitute, but also becomes the mistress of Domenico. He eventually sets her up in an apartment, and she works for him in his various businesses. She secretly bears three children, who are raised by nannys. Domenico starts planning to marry a young employee. Filumena tricks him into marriage by pretending to be dying. Domenico annuls the marriage. Filumena then tells him of the three children. She says that one of the children belongs to Domenico, but will not say which one is his. You start to believe that all of the children could be his, and Domenico then marries Filumena again, this time willingly. 
Both stars are at their best here, and it remains a marvellous movie. De Sica began to make less commercial movies though - we were not rushing to AFTER THE FOX or WOMAN TIMES SEVEN, and even SUNFLOWER with Sophia and Marcello again, in 1970, did not quite recapture them at their best here.  At least he had another great success with THE GARDEN OF THE FINZI-CONTINI in 1971, as per my post on that - De Sica label.  Sophia and Marcello also had a great success with A SPECIAL DAY in 1977 (see Loren-Mastroianni labels), and tried that striptease again in Altman's damp squib PRET A PORTER in 1993.

Summer is on the way out here, there is already an autumn chill in the air, so we will finish our summer revivals this week, with those 2 versions of THE TALENTED MR RIPLEY, some more Denueves and Pedro Almodovar. Autumn season will be catching up with Robert Hossein's films and Gerard Philipe's, plus some more Romy Schneider, and celebrating Peter Finch, Alan Bates and David Warner! and there's that Antonioni centenary on 29 September.

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