Wednesday, July 10, 2013

"Marriage Italian Style", 1964


A few weeks ago, I was trying to cheer up with the help of a movie and I settled on Marriage Italian Style, the film adaptation of the popular play Filumena Marturano. Starring Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastrioanni (the guy from La Dolce Vita), the film tells the story of Domenico and Filumena. Filumena became Domenico's "mistress" 20 years ago and pretends she's dying in order to get him to marry her just before he's about to marry some young tramp. The Virgin has mercy on her, she says, and she recovered, with Domenico now having to serve his sentence as her hoodwinked husband.

That setup as told by Netflix seems like it could make for hilarious situations, with Domenico trying to get out his marriage and Filumena as the crafty wife thwarting him at every turn. Except it's not funny. It's the story of a young, beautiful, illiterate prostitute from the countryside who falls for a rich man that will buy her gifts, yes, but doesn't show her love or respect. Domenico gives Filumena different jobs that give her control over some of his businesses (that way she won't have to sleep with other men; she'll just belong to him) but at the same time, she can never meet his family. That is, until Domenico has her move in as his mother's nursemaid.

All this is bad but itself, but what makes it worse is that Filumena has three sons over the course of decades-long relationship with Domenico. That, she says, is the reason she eventually traps him into marriage--so that her sons can have his last name and have a shot at a decent future. For years, she'd been caring for them from afar, paying babysitters or feeding them free sweets one of the bakeries she ran. It's a sad movie but thankfully has a happy ending.

Sophia and Marcello are so, so good in this movie. Their chemistry is always great and the writers, director, etc. did a great job of translating it to screen. It felt like a movie that started as a movie rather than a play that became a movie. As great as it was, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, was very much a play slapped onscreen.

It's not a big movie for fashion, though Sophia does wear this number (in one of the brothel scenes, natch).

Add this one to your queue, definitely, but not when you already feel sad. Do not make my mistake.

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