The winner for Best Foreign Language Film at the 1965 Academy Awards, this film uses the same two actors to tell three different stories. At first I thought this would be weird to watch, but Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni are so good at what they do that the vignettes become great little movies that are very separate from one another.
Act I tells the tale of Adelina, a struggling young wife and mother who is on the verge of being arrested for selling cigarettes. Upon discovering that there’s a law forbidding the arrest of a pregnant woman, she comes up with a plan: always be pregnant or nursing (which wins another six months of freedom). The mayhem this brings on their life is humorous, until we see the toll it starts to take on their marriage and her husband’s mental and physical health.
Act II is a car ride between Anna, a self-centered woman married to a wealthy businessman, and her lover Renzo, who she wants to go away with. Anna is a horrible driver, and has no place driving a gorgeous new Rolls Royce. She eventually hands the wheel of her expensive car over to him, but a moment of daydreaming leads to a crash into the side of the road. This brings out the worst in her personality as she looks for the first chance of rescue, with or without Renzo.
Act III is the story of Mara, a sexy prostitute who lives next door to a prudish old woman. When the old lady’s adorable grandson comes to visit on a break from seminary school, Mara and he strike up a quick friendship on their balconies. His fondness for her makes him shun his plans for priesthood, much to his grandmother’s dismay. Mara makes a week-long vow of chastity if she can convince young Umberto to go back to the seminary. This might be a problem for her client Rusconi (Mastroianni) who has been visiting her for days trying to get an appointment. This was my favorite of the three stories; it was also the funniest.
Although Loren’s three characters are stereotypes – the sassy Italian mother, the self-centered rich bitch, and the prostitute with a heart of gold – she still brings something extra to each role. Her gorgeous eyes draw you in to each story and the womens’ emotions. Mastroianni, an excellent actor on his own, plays the supportive man to each of her ladies. The combination of the two is a treat to watch. A bonus for anyone in the world in love with Loren is the little striptease that Mara does towards the end of the film.