A Special Day (1977)


Bil’s rating (out of 5):  BBBB.5

Original title:  Una Giornata Particolare

/, 1977.  , .  Screenplay by , Ettore Scola, collaboration with .  Cinematography by .   Produced by .  Music by .  Production Design by .  Costume Design by .  Film Editing by .   Podcast:  My Criterions.

It’s May 8, 1938 and Adolf Hitler is coming to visit his Fascist brother-in-Axis-power in Rome, which means the citizens of the entire city are putting on their finest black shirts to stand in the streets and cheer the motorcade as it goes by.  This leaves a tired and frustrated housewife (Sophia Loren) to clean up after her absent husband and five children and, hopefully, find some peace, while across the courtyard, a recently fired radio announcer (Marcello Mastroianni) awaits deportation and hopefully nothing worse for being an enemy of the government (he’s anti-fascist and gay and has no intention of changing either).

Loren’s pet myna bird escapes her kitchen and flies across the courtyard to Mastroianni’s window, putting them in contact for the first time since they’ve both lived there.  Left to their own devices for a whole day, these two complete opposites (she tows the party line because she sees no other option) find common ground, the journey perfectly calibrated from its awkward beginning to the deep, powerful intimacy that results by the end of their time together, accompanied for the most part by the sound of the landlady’s radio narrating the events of the parade.

Gorgeously shot in rich sepia tones and featuring two powerhouse performances from the leads, this is the result of all the years these two superstars spent on film together, their charisma always superb even while they do such a great job of convincing us that they are not already intimately acquainted.  Director Ettore Scola situates the entire thing within the confines of their run-down apartment building despite the historical grandeur happening on the street just beyond them, emphasizing the characters’ isolation from the political movement that is claiming to make their world a better place but is clearly leaving very vibrant and necessary people behind.   It moves smoothly and with exceptional ease with a number of sequences really standing out, including the opening breakfast scene, a heartbreaking fight on the rooftop and a very powerful love scene.

The Criterion Collection:  #778

Academy Award Nominations:  Best Actor (Marcello Mastroianni); Best Foreign Language Film

Cannes Film Festival:  In Competition

Golden Globe Award:  Best Foreign Language Film
Nomination: Best Actor-Drama (Marcello Mastroianni)

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