In Rome, fascist supporter Emanuele attends a parade commemorating Adolf Hitler's historic meeting with Italian leader Benito Mussolini, leaving his apolitical wife, Antonietta, to tend to household duties. Antonietta encounters a man, Gabriele, who appears surprisingly nonplussed by the political event. Over the course of the day, the two forge a close friendship that will forever change their perceptions of life, love and politics.
Previously I had seen many pairings of Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni--next to William Powell and Myrna Loy, this is my favourite cinematic coupling--but never any works by director Scola, so I wasn't really sure what to expect, especially with it being a period piece of Italy just before the Second World War. This was a masterpiece. I could talk all day about how excellent the two stars must have been, in order to completely subvert every preconception we have come to associate with their on-screen romantic partnership (namely, Loren portraying a shy, put-upon mother of six, and Mastroianni playing a suicidal gay man) AND so convincingly. As well, I heartily recommend viewers to watch all of the extras on The Criterion Collection's recent release--I loved Scola's statement (and I paraphrase): 'Humour is as much a part of life as everything else--If a writer has a chance to put a comedic incident in a realistic drama, he has a moral obligation to do so.' I will remember that--and hopefully utilize it in my own work, should I ever be so gifted as to work in the field that I love--for the rest of my days. I am surprised that it wasn't mentioned in any of the extras that Mastroianni was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor for his performance here. That is extremely rare for a foreign-language film, and should instantly be a clue to you of the film's quality. In Loren's June 2015 interview, she stated it was her best work other than her Oscar-winning acting in 'Two Women'. She's absolutely spot-on--and still looking gorgeous today. Definitely worth a purchase and rewatching. It's one of the most poignant observations of loneliness I have yet seen. When Loren's Antonietta says to Mastroianni's Gabriele 'I love you just as you are', it really doesn't matter what eventually happens to either party--Gabriele has found unconditional love. There is truly nothing else worth having, not even life. It should have been called 'A Very Special Day', for it most certainly is, especially for the cinephile who watches it, even now. And I wouldn't be the least surprised if the film's re-release starts a surge of interest in scrapbooking, as Antonietta was so good at it, charting in an obsessive fashion the doings of her beloved Il Duce.