Sunday, May 05, 2013

Marriage Italian Style (Matrimonio all’ italiana 1964) ****

I had always thought of Sophia Loren as this legendary beauty, but not as a serious actress.  Pardon my ignorance.  In “Marriage Italian Style,” Loren shows tremendous acting chops as she teams with the great Marcello Mastroianni to create a tour de force of a satire on sexual politics.
In Vittorio de Sicca’s masterpiece, Loren plays Filumena, a young Italian prostitute who falls for the handsome, wealthy Don Domenico (Mastroianni).  He makes her his mistress, keeping her for years, but is never willing to commit to her emotionally or legally.  We learn all this through flashbacks.  The film actually starts with Filumena apparently dying, and Domenico finally consenting to marry her on her deathbed.  With the marriage complete, Filumena makes a miraculous recovery, and Domenico realizes he has been duped.  Thus resumes the pair’s lifelong game of emotional blackmail and bribery, exemplifying the saying, “All’s fair in love and war.”
Marcello Mastroianni is as good as always here, but it was Sophia Loren who really impressed me.  She wears too much eye makeup, but still lights up the screen.  She beautifully portrays the pathos and dignity of her character.  The story itself is worthwhile, too.  At first I thought it would be an old-fashioned tale of a woman getting some rogue to marry her and then civilizing him; sort of a reverse “The Taming of the Shrew.”  If the film had been made in the U.S. in the early ‘60’s, that’s what it would have been, but the Italians apparently don’t go in for that sort of thing.  “Marriage Italian Style” casts a pragmatic eye on the character of Filumena, a female survivor of WWII and its aftermath who does what she has to.
It would be possible to take a look at this film’s title and movie poster and come into it expecting a comedy. Don’t make that mistake.  This is a serious human drama.  There is some comic relief, but it is no farce.  Still, Filumena is so inventive in getting what she needs from a world and a man intent on denying her, that rooting for her is ultimately a triumphant act.  This one is highly recommended for those who like foreign films.

4 stars out of 5

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