Mama Mia! Loren deservedly won a Best Actress Oscar--the first to a non-American actress in a foreign-language film--for this Vittorio De Sica film, adapted by screenwriter Cesare Zavattini from an Alberto Moravia novel. It's not a great De Sica-Zavattini collaboration; much of the movie
suffers from poor pacing and listlessness, but Loren is a marvel to behold.
She plays Cesira, a young widow in 1943 Italy who leaves her grocery store in San Lorenzo in the hands of her sometime lover (Raf Vallone), fleeing Allied bombing with her teenage daughter, Rosetta (Eleanora Brown), to return to her native village. There, after an arduous journey, she meets
Michele (Jean-Paul Belmondo), the intellectual son of a local farmer with whom Rosetta falls in love, though he falls for her lovely mother. As the town grows increasingly besieged by bombing and shortages, Michele is forced to guide some fleeing Germans on an escape route, while Cesira and
Rosetta go back to Rome for safety. Along the way, mother and daughter suffer a tragedy that changes both their lives forever, despite Cesira's best efforts to protect her child from the ravages of war. Loren also won the Best Actress Award at Cannes and the same honor from the British Film
Academy; more important, she demonstrated in this film that she was a mature actress with talent to match her looks. And that deglamourized, she was still magnificent. But Eleanora Brown's role (originally meant for Loren, with Magnani to play the mother; the latter refused) is underwritten,
Belmondo's character is a rehashed cliche, and Loren's affair with Vallone has had all the sex sucked out of it. It's almost as though everyone pinned their hopes on a big, international success for Loren, so they side-stepped her earth mother getting too carnal. But if the plot turns feel
predictable, Loren rises to their occasions with the primal maternal force almost as old as time itself.
De Sica and Zavattini's previous collaborations included SHOESHINE, THE BICYCLE THIEF, and UMBERTO D., while TWO WOMEN doesn't match the greatness or simplicity of those neo-realist masterworks, it remains a remarkably moving, humane vision of individual
struggle in an inhumane world.
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- Rating: NR
- Review: Mama Mia! Loren deservedly won a Best Actress Oscar--the first to a non-American actress in a foreign-language film--for this Vittorio De Sica film, adapted by screenwriter Cesare Zavattini from an Alberto Moravia novel. It's not a great De Sica-Zavattini… (more)