Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow
Vittorio De Sica won no less than four Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language film. This is the third one. And it could not be more different from the first two, Shoeshine and Bicycle Thieves. It’s a three-part comedy, as the title implies. All three star Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni, who often worked together, I’m happy to say. They are very different characters in each.
The first, and best, is Adelina of Naples, a poor, in-your-face woman who makes a living selling black market cigarettes from a tiny table on the street lined with dozens of other women selling things. But she was busted, and would go to jail except that she is pregnant, and Italian law says you can’t lock up a pregnant women, and even further, she gets a six-month reprieve after the birth. So she and Marcello work it so that every time the cops come around, she’s got a big belly. This works for a long time, and obviously fills their tiny room with bambini. It’s all comic opera stuff, with impossibly clean, well-dressed, cheerful neighbors and no garbage on the streets. It could easily have been a musical, as there are at least five or six obvious song cues. I enjoyed it a lot.
Anna of Milan is a very rich, very entitled, very well-dressed bitch. Every time she pulls her Rolls-Royce to a stop at a red light she rear-ends the car in front of her. Not enough to damage the car. Just a bump. She doesn’t give a shit. Eventually her new lover, Marcello, takes the wheel, and has a much more serious collision (painful to watch for a car lover, as the front fender gets crunched) and she abandons him at the side of the road. It would never have worked, anyway. This is the shortest and least interesting of the three.
Mara of Rome is a high-class prostitute working from her apartment. Next door is a seminary student who becomes infatuated with her, and when his love is not returned he decides to join the Foreign Legion. Mara has to dissuade him from this. Meanwhile flighty Marcello is even more infatuated, but circumstances prevent them from getting it on. This is the one where the famous shot of Loren taking off her stockings came from. It’s fairly funny, and an okay story. The film, overall, strikes me as not really Oscar material. Both The Umbrellas of Cherbourg from France (which is entirely sung!), and Woman in the Dunes from Japan were better.