Sophia Loren is exquisite in this 1963 film (Ieri, Oggi, Domani) by the Italian neorealist director Vittorio De Sica. She and Marcello Mastroianni play well off each other in a series of three stories about three different women: Adelina, Anna, and Mara.
Love and lust are the main themes in this comedy about the sexes, which won an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film. In the first tale, the longest one, Loren plays Adelina, a working-class woman who keeps getting pregnant so she can stave off the police, who want to imprison her for illegally selling cigarettes on the street. (She won’t have to go to prison if she’s preggers.) After seven kids, the stress of childrearing and constant sex gets to her husband (Mastroianni), and he fails to perform. Adelina gets sick of him and storms off to prison voluntarily, taking her two youngest along. Her hubbie won’t leave it at that, of course.
In the second tale, Loren plays Anna, a rich socialite who takes on a lover (Mastroianni) because she’s bored. He’s not wealthy, and he points that out to her, but she insists she doesn’t care about money–until a car accident brings out the truth.
Loren plays Mara in the last tale. She’s an upscale prostitute, and her flirtation with the young man next door, a seminary student, causes trouble. He readily gives up school because of his infatuation with his sexy neighbor. Mara’s got a good heart, and when the boy’s grandmother begs her to persuade him to return to seminary, she offers not to have sex for a week as a form of vigil, which drives one of her persistent clients (Mastroianni) crazy.
De Sica’s sense of the absurd makes for plenty of hilarious moments. While this film is light in tone, you can see the director’s neorealist roots in how he chooses to portray Italy, showing how different classes of people live and how they think of and interact with one another.
Loren’s radiant passion and Mastroianni’s mutable energy, from high to muted, work in the array of characters they portray. I buy all the changes in persona and love how stylish and funny–and real–this movie is.