Friday, January 25, 2008

Two Women (La Ciociara) (1960)

(Directed by Vittorio de Sica, Italy, 1960)

Turner Classic Movies recently aired this as a selection of John Sayles' favorite movies. I have always been intrigued by this film and in 1960 it won Sophia Loren an Oscar for Best Actress from 1962 - the first time that a foreign actress in a foreign film ever won that award.

Basically, De Sica's story is perhaps one of the great anti-war films and its simple story can be described as an almost feminist 'road movie: Loren plays a young voluptuous widowed shopowner in Rome who decides to leave the city with her teenage daughter as constant bombardment from the Second World War threatens their livelihood. She goes to southern Italy with her daughter and meets a badly dubbed Jean-Paul Belmondo at her relatives' home. Her character frequently vents rather naively on men, and the war. Frequently blunt, Loren gives a great performance: tough, vulnerable and ultimately crushed by the tragic denouement that occurs towards the film's end.

It is a shame that this film is not available on a viewable dvd. There is a rather awful version produced by the Madary company that is a rather muddy VHS transfer, by all means avoid this version. Perhaps the Criterion company will re-release a better version in the near future.

La Ciociara is an adaptation of a novel by the Italian author Alberto Moravia, he was responsible for providing the filmic inspiration for, among others Jean-Luc Godard ("Contempt"/"Le Mepris) and Bernardo Bertolucci, ("The Conformist"). For more information click here.