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2022 Films

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October 21, 22, 23, 2022

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Set in Italy during 1944, Sophia Loren plays a thirty-ish woman devoted to her attractive and largely silent 12-year-old daughter, Eleonora Brown. two women posterLoren abandons her grocery store in Rome when the city becomes a frequent target for Allied bombers. She and her daughter journey to relatives in the hilly Ciociarian countryside, but the two refugees cannot fully escape the hazards of war.

The practical and moderately earthy Loren begins a romantic friendship with Jean-Paul Belmondo, a young and idealistic Communist, since his neighboring family has access to food, which has become increasingly scarce. Belmondo is wanted by the dwindling German occupiers and their Fascist Italian collaborators.

Advances by American troops encourage Loren and Brown to return to Rome, but they leave too early and are victimized by a roving band of Moroccan soldiers. Those horrific scenes and their aftermath are undoubtedly responsible for Loren, then principally known for romantic Hollywood comedies such as Houseboat, securing the first Best Actress Oscar won for a foreign language performance. Loren also won Best Actress at Cannes, while noted neorealist Italian director Vittorio De Sica, whose empathy for the troubled common man was confirmed by Western successes Umberto D and The Bicycle Thief, was nominated for a Golden Palm.

Director: Vittorio de Sica 
Cast: Sophia Loren, Jean-Paul Belmondo, Raf Vallone, Eleonora Brown
Language: Italian with sub-titles
Run Time: 101
Genre: Drama

From TV Guide

A mother and daughter struggle to survive in war-ravaged Italy. They clash regularly because they love the same man, and because the mother tries to instill in her teenage child that she should not trade her body for supplies.

Mama Mia! Loren deservedly won a Best Actress Oscar - the first to a non-American actress in a foreign-language film - for this Vittorio De Sica film, adapted by screenwriter Cesare Zavattini from an Alberto Moravia novel. It's not a great De Sica-Zavattini collaboration; much of the movie suffers from poor pacing and listlessness, but Loren is a marvel to behold.

two women

She plays Cesira, a young widow in 1943 Italy who leaves her grocery store in San Lorenzo in the hands of her sometime lover (Raf Vallone), fleeing Allied bombing with her teenage daughter, Rosetta (Eleanora Brown), to return to her native village. There, after an arduous journey, she meets Michele (Jean-Paul Belmondo), the intellectual son of a local farmer with whom Rosetta falls in love, though he falls for her lovely mother. As the town grows increasingly besieged by bombing and shortages, Michele is forced to guide some fleeing Germans on an escape route, while Cesira and Rosetta go back to Rome for safety. Along the way, mother and daughter suffer a tragedy that changes both their lives forever, despite Cesira's best efforts to protect her child from the ravages of war.

two women2 450Loren also won the Best Actress Award at Cannes and the same honor from the British Film Academy; more important, she demonstrated in this film that she was a mature actress with talent to match her looks. And that deglamourized, she was still magnificent. But Eleanora Brown's role (originally meant for Loren, with Magnani to play the mother; the latter refused) is underwritten, Belmondo's character is a rehashed cliché, and Loren's affair with Vallone has had all the sex sucked out of it. It's almost as though everyone pinned their hopes on a big, international success for Loren, so they side-stepped her earth mother getting too carnal. But if the plot turns feel predictable, Loren rises to their occasions with the primal maternal force almost as old as time itself.

De Sica and Zavattini's previous collaborations included SHOESHINE, THE BICYCLE THIEF, and UMBERTO D., while TWO WOMEN doesn't match the greatness or simplicity of those neo-realist masterworks, it remains a remarkably moving, humane vision of individual struggle in an inhumane world.