Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.5. Italy/Canada, 1977. Compagnia Cinematografica Champion, Canafox Films. Screenplay by Ruggero Maccari, Ettore Scola, collaboration with Maurizio Costanzo. Cinematography by Pasqualino de Santis. Produced by Carlo Ponti. Music by Armando Trovajoli. Production Design by Luciano Ricceri. Costume Design by Enrico Sabbatini. Film Editing by Raimondo Crociani. Academy Awards 1977. Cannes Film Festival 1977. Golden Globe Awards 2017. 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 these two 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 these characters, emphasizing their 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.