Wednesday, September 19, 2012

La ciociara

You probably wouldn't recognize the title La ciociara, unless you happen to speak Italian. The movie was relased in the United States with the title Two Women. It's airing tomorrow morning at 7:15 AM on TCM.

Sophia Loren stars as Cesira, a widow with a teenaged daughter who is scraping out a living in Rome during World War II. The Allies are advancing, and Cesira, having no idea that the Allies were more or less going to bypass Rome on their way through Italy, decided that the best thing for her daughter would be to flee back to her home town in the countryside. Life may not be much more prosperous there, but at least it's likely to be safer. And it is safer, at least for a while. Cesira meets Michele (Jean-Paul Belmondo), an intellectual who is doing everything he can to sit out the war. Cesira takes a shining to him, but unfortunately so does her daughter Rosetta, although it seems fairly clear that Michele would never end up with Rosetta.

As I said, village life was safer for a while -- but only a while. There's still a war on, and the Allies have taken Rome and are advancing on places like Cesria's home village. The Nazis are retreating, and on their retreat wind up in Cesira's town, expecting the villagers to help them because the Nazis have guns and can do terrible things to the villagers if they don't help. Specifically, they want Michele to show them the way to get back to the rest of the Nazi lines and bypass the Allies. Cesira decides once again that becoming a refugee is the least bad option, and heads with her daughter back to Rome. What happens next is, well... something I don't think I should mention.

Sophia Loren gives an outstanding performance in Two Women, and well deserved the Academy Award she won for it. If anything, she completely takes over the movie to the point that we don't particularly care about the plot, which is really rather threadbare. Cesira lives one place for a while, then lives another place, then heads back to the first place, and it's only toward the end that something happens that makes us take notice. The whole Nazis being in the area thing seems almost like a Macguffin serving as a backdroup for a slice-of-life story into the life of a widow with an adolescent daughter. It's not a perfect movie, but Loren is so good that she spectacularly covers up all the imperfections.

Two Women has made it to a bunch of low-budget DVD releases; I don't know about the print quality of any of those DVDs, however.

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