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Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow (1963)


cinemaspeak59
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I always enjoy Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow (1963), even though it’s a little corny.  It was brilliant to pair mega international stars Marcello Mastroianni and Sophia Loren.  Loren is the dominant role in this audience-friendly trilogy. Mastroianni, a gifted comic actor, excels at playing subservient to the force of nature that is Loren. The first story, Yesterday, is set in 1954, and titled Adelina of Naples. Adelina (Loren) must continually get pregnant to avoid jail for selling black market cigarettes. (Italian law stipulates pregnant women can’t be imprisoned.) In the process, she wears out her husband (Mastroianni), who seeks relief by moving back in with his mother. A doctor is consulted, who diagnoses Mastroianni’s character as the one who can’t stop, until Adelina politely corrects him. The doctor is astonished. Composing himself, he counsels Adelina that a husband is like a horse, requiring rest to perform. The scene, performed with perfect drollness, had me laughing hysterically. This installment is so-very Neapolitan, from the houses, the streets, the food and the dialect.  It’s warm, cozy and full of goodwill. Loren as the besieged housewife raises her voice but keeps her poise, whether she’s feeding her growing family or having to fend off a male friend who has other intentions. 

The second vignette, Anna of Milan, finds Loren playing a materialistic, callous, Rolls Royce-driving wife of a super-rich industrialist.  Mastroianni is her lover.  Anna is so unlikeable we crave some type of comeuppance. She’s a horrible driver and almost runs over a highway worker, and then throws a tantrum because her Rolls is dented. The gray elegance of Milan provides a nice contrast to sun-drenched Naples.

In the last story, Tomorrow, Mara of Rome, Loren’s Mara is a high-priced prostitute with one very loyal, and obsessed customer in Mastroianni.  Mara relishes her sexuality without flaunting it. Loren’s performance elevates the hooker with a heart of gold trope. Despite her profession, Mara has a uniquely Italian reverence for the Catholic Church.  Mara’s sacrificial act, in helping a smitten young seminarian intent on abandoning the priesthood for her, isn’t selfish penance but genuine kindness.  Mara’s apartment, with its breathtaking view of Rome, almost competes for top billing.

Vittorio De Sica directed some of the world’s finest films, neorealist classics like Bicycle Thieves (1948) and Umberto D (1952).  His Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow is an example of commedia all’italiana, a subgenre that flourished during the late 1950s into the 60s.  Masterpieces include lacerating black comedies Divorce Italian Style (1961) – also starring Mastroianni - and Il Sorpasso (1962), films that satirized Sicilian mores and male arrested development, respectively.

Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow is more a showcase for its two stars. The tone is lighter. Satirical barbs land gently. The performances are broad - Mastroianni howling like a wolf at Loren’s striptease in the third vignette, Loren dominating everyone and everything as the Neapolitan matriarch - but avoid caricature.  Finally, the scenery and sets are out of this world.  Winner of the 1965 Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film. 

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I always enjoy the film as well. I first saw it in my local theater in the Bronx, as a kid. It was dubbed in English. Later on, I saw the version with English subtitles. In some ways, I actually prefer the dubbed version. The scene in which Adelina learns that "They can't arrest Adelina, she's got the belly!" sounds better in English. When the groups of kids go around the city (Naples) chanting "She's got the belly, she's got the belly...," the rhythm of the English chant sounds better than it does in the original Italian.

Yesterdsay-Today-and-Tomorrow-Pregnant-A

 

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