‘YESTERDAY Today and Tomorrow’ won the Oscar best foreign language film in 1964 and we remember seeing it then at Ideal Theatre. It’s actually a trilogy of three stories set in different cities of Italy, all starring the top Italian stars then, Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni, and all directed by Vittorio de Sica, who also won the Oscar for “Bicycle Thieves” (1950) and “The Garden of the Finzi-Continis” (1972).
The first story is the yesterday set in the 50s, “Adelina of Naples”, who supports her jobless husband (Marcello) and child by selling prohibited black market cigarettes. She is arrested, but Italian law says women cannot be jailed if they’re pregnant or within six months after pregnancy. Adelina is preggers so they can’t imprison her. And then she gets herself pregnant every year, producing 7 kids in 8 years. Her husband refused to do it again and suggests she go to bed with their friend. She decides to go to jail, but their neighborhood petitions for her pardon and she is reunited with her family.
The second story is “Anna of Milan”, set today with Sophia playing the wife of a rich businessman. She’s very glamourous here, dressed by Christian Dior. While her husband is away, she has an affair with a nameless struggling writer, Renzo (Marcello). The next morning, they drive in Anna’s latest model Rolls Royce car.
As they travel, she says she’s willing to give up her rich life for Renzo, but he, in turn, is more obsessed with money and her wealth since he’s poor. Anna must choose which will make her more happy: Renzo or her wealth. Renzo, in turn, has second thoughts when they nearly run over a child and Anna expresses no concern at all, ending up with her crashing her lavish car. She then gets a hitch from another driver and leaves Renzo on the road.
The last episode is “Mara of Rome” and Sophia plays a hooker who services only high class clients, including the rich and powerful son of a Bologna magnate (Marcello). The handsome grandson of her neighbor, Umberto (Gianni Ridolfi), who’s just on a visit, falls in love with her. But he’s studying for the priesthood. Much to the dismay of his grandma, he now wants to leave the seminary to be with Mara. Mara then tries her best to convince him to take the path of righteousness and she asks the help of Marcello. But will they succeed?
The movie is basically a light-hearted romantic comedy that moves up and down the social ladder to make asides about love and class. The first episode gets to celebrate the feeling of close community ties among the poor people. The second episode gets to challenge ideas about love and priorities in life.
The final story with Sophia as a high class prostie with a heart of gold in Rome, who wants to steer a seminarian having a crisis of faith back to God, is the most serious one. But it also has the film’s most talked about scene, Sophia doing a striptease for Marcello. It’s certainly tame by today’s standards, but it’s easy to see why it made such an impact. De Sica’s direction is light and breezy, perfectly starting each story with a pan across the featured city: Napoli, Milano, Roma.
Sophia is just gorgeous. She’s the most successful Italian star to make it big in Hollywood, being paired with the top leading men of the time like Clark Gable, Charlton Heston, Cary Grant, Gregory Peck, Peter O’Toole (where she sang as Dulcinea).
We remember when we first saw her in “Boy on a Dolphin” in 1957 doing a wet scene. We were just so totally stunned by her beauty, she’s just oozing with sexiness without even trying. There were other Italian actresses who also made it in Hollywood like Gina Lolobrigida, Claudia Cardinale, Silvana Mangano,Virna Lisi, but they’re all second fiddle to her.
She’s also an amazing actress, doing drama with so much intensity like in “Two Women” (where she won the Oscar best actress award) and comedy with perfect timing (like her comic scenes in this film.)
“Yesterday Today” is truly a showcase for her varied talents in her three roles as a poor working class mother, a bored rich man’s wife and a whore. She comes out sparkling, fresh, very human.
She’s now 85 years old, but still looking gorgeous. We see her in those long advertories on youtube and she remains so elegant and classy, and we heard she just finished shooting a new film, “The Life Ahead”. What a long and productive life and career indeed!