A joyous Italian classic created by three world famous figures in cinema, one of whom is a living legend
"Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow” is an exhilarating and entertaining classic which takes a largely comical, somewhat somber, and very moving look at humanity. This refreshing masterpiece is comprised of three distinct stories, each set against a background exploring the power of women’s sexuality over men. Directed by one of the world's most influential and preeminent directors (and one of my favorites) Vittorio De Sica, this film is extremely engaging, highly original, and exquisitely filmed. And it showcases one of the most famous and versatile international film duos in history - Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastrioianni.
The three separate stories in “Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow” each take place throughout Italy at different times, highlighting particular social issues such as the legal system, the wealthy, religion and sex. Both Sophia and Marcello get a chance to portray completely unique characters each time which is truly a treat. The segments are named after their lead female character, each played by Sophia. Without spoiling the plot, the segments are:
“Adelina” is the first and longest of the three. It is delightful, with so much joy in the directing and acting.
“Anna” is the second and shortest of the three, and the only one that is not a comedy. It contains perhaps the most interestingly filmed car ride conversation I’ve seen (which is no small feat).
“Mara” is the third and final segment and the most famous. It contains an iconic scene in cinema which I’ll discuss in the TO READ AFTER VIEWING section below. Both stars are tremendous, as this segment gives Marcello the perfect vehicle to show off his immense comedic talent, and Sophia is simply mesmerizing.
Vittorio De Sica, the director of “Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow”, is a director whose work I truly love. He never holds anything back and his films are emotional, fresh and daring. De Sica is among the most important directors in cinema, credited with creating what became known as “Italian neorealism” (along with directors Roberto Rossellini and Luchino Visconti). During WWII the film studios in Italy were destroyed, and as a result these directors started filming in streets, homes, buildings and other authentic locations, often using non-actors. Mostly stories about the working class and poor, their films created a new type of realism never before seen. There was a rawness, truthfulness, and a stark simplicity to their films, encompassed by intense emotion. Their movies rattled cinema, influencing films all around the world, including Hollywood. Even a huge star like Ingrid Bergman was so taken with Rossellini’s neorealist classic “Open City”, that she wanted to be a part of the movement and work with Rossellini (which I talk about briefly in my “Notorious” entry). Cinema forever changed because of the films by these directors (in particular De Sica and Rossellini).
Vittorio De Sica began as an actor in theater and films in Italy in the 1920s, and by the 1930s he was an Italian matinee idol. He started directing films in 1940, and became world renowned with his remarkable films “Shoeshine” in 1946, and “The Bicycle Thief” in 1948, both of which were a vital part of the neorealism moment. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences was so taken with those two films that he was awarded special Academy Awards for each of them. This was before the “Best Foreign Language Film” category existed (now called “Best International Feature”), which became a standard category in 1956. De Sica directed over 30 films and acted in over 150. When directing, he was known to act out every part to demonstrate to his actors exactly what he wanted. Everyone I’ve ever heard interviewed directed by him say he played their parts better than they ever could have. De Sica was a humanist, mostly making films about human and social issues and often criticizing society. His films were unpredictable and almost always about the human heart in some form. “Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow”, one of his lighter films, won the “Best Foreign Language Film” Academy Award in 1965, and his 1977 film, “The Garden of the Finzi Continis” brought him a fourth Oscar. De Sica appeared as an actor in films throughout his career (in Europe and the US) and was nominated for a “Best Supporting Actor” Oscar for the 1957 US film “A Farewell to Arms”. In addition to his four Oscar winning films, he directed films in Italy and the US including the classics “Marriage Italian Style”, “Sunflower” (both with Sophia and Marcello), "Miracle in Milan", "Two Women", "The Children Are Watching Us","The Gold of Naples”, and "Indiscretion of an American Wife" (starring Montgomery Clift and Jennifer Jones). He once said he made films to express a poetic world inside himself, and poetic they are. De Sica was pivotal in making Sophia Loren a star. He had a gambling addiction and sometimes made a film just so he could get out of debt. Vittorio De Sica died in 1974 at the age of 73.
Sophia Loren is a living legend and one of the world’s finest, most beautiful, and beloved actresses. She was voted number 21 of the women on the American Film Institute’s “100 Years...100 Stars” list of the "50 Greatest American Screen Legends”, and is the only woman alive today on the list (and only one of two alive on the list as of this posting, the other being Sidney Poitier). A versatile actress who can make you laugh and cry, she appeared in both dramas and comedies, and even sang in several films. In addition to her talent, she is known for her stunning looks, voluptuous figure, her warmth, and earthy sensuality. Even with her extraordinary looks and curvaceous body she excelled at playing everyday common type women, which I believe is one reason she is so relatable. When you watch her you feel she is a real person, not a “larger than life” actress or untouchable star. There is something natural and honest about her. Her beauty is unconventional and she once said, "Everything you see I owe to spaghetti”. I’ve always thought Sophia to be the sexiest woman that ever appeared onscreen, yet she never tries to be sexy - she just is sexy.
Sophia Loren grew up in extreme poverty in war torn Italy, with no father and a then stigma of being illegitimate. She dreamed one day her life would be different. As a young teenager she began to enter beauty contests to earn money, always coming in second place. At one of the contests she was noticed by Italian film producer Carlo Ponti who would create and guide her career and later become her husband (even though he was 22 years older). Carlo helped get her first screen test, and the response from the cameraman was that she could never be in movies because she had a long nose, a big mouth, and didn’t know how to act. After being told that by several cameramen, she later recounted that one day all of the sudden it changed, and from then on she photographed beautifully. She started getting extra and bit parts in films in her late teens, and by 1952 was getting leads in Italian films. Her breakthrough came in 1954 as the pizza man’s wife in the De Sica classic, “The Gold of Naples”. While she always gives a great performance, Sophia excelled in Italian films at playing Neapolitan women - perhaps because she was Neapolitan. I talk about that in a blog entry on my music site which I wrote just after seeing her interviewed at the TCM Film Festival in 2015 (which you can read by clicking HERE). In 1954 Sophia made the film “Too Bad She’s Bad”, in which she appeared with De Sica and for the first time with Marcello Mastrioianni. She and Marcello had instant chemistry which translated onto the screen. In the TCM interview she said their chemistry was based on humor and food (Marcello loved food and always wanted to know what would be for dinner). Their electric chemistry translated worldwide and they became a top international film duo. They would make thirteen films together (that’s what I count - there are different numbers floating around), three directed by De Sica. Sophia would be directed by De Sica in a total of nine films, including her phenomenal performance in the 1960 drama “Two Women”, for which she won a “Best Actress” Academy Award (which made her the first person to win an acting Oscar for a role spoken in a foreign language). She would again be nominated for the 1964 classic, "Marriage Italian Style”, and was awarded an honorary Oscar in 1991 for her body of work.
An international star, she appeared in Hollywood films starting with “The Pride and the Passion” in 1957 opposite Cary Grant (who you saw in “Bringing Up Baby” and “Notorious”) and Frank Sinatra. She and Cary fell in love while working on that film but didn't pursue an affair since she was already with Carlo Ponti. She and Cary were great friends until the day he died. In Hollywood she worked opposite just about every top leading man in the business, while continually making films in Europe. In addition to the films mentioned, some of her other classics include, “A Special Day”, “Houseboat”, "Sunflower", "Boy on a Dolphin", "El Cid", "Man of La Mancha”, "Arabesque", and "Boccaccio ’70". She and producer Carlo Ponti (who produced many of her films) were married for over fifty years until his death in 2007. They had two sons, one of whom is film director Edoardo Ponti. I’ve had the honor of being in Sophia’s direct presence twice, and both times I was speechless. Once, as I was opening a door at the Oscars, I turned around and was face to face with her. No one else was around. I couldn’t speak. We smiled at one another, I held the door open for her. and she was so close, her dress brushed against me as she passed through the doorway. The first time I “met” Sophia was when I was in high school and cut class to see her promoting her perfume at the mall. As I’ve stated before, my mother also loved movies, and this time she escorted my sister and I, allowing us to miss school that day. What an incredible mom I had. At the event, I actually got to shake Sophia's hand and I still have the photo she autographed for me. I also talk about that in my music blog post. As you can tell by now, Sophia is one of the actresses I love most. In about a month, on September 20, Sophia Loren will turn 86 years old.
Marcello Mastrioianni, was a gigantic international star and a hugely gifted versatile actor. He is perhaps best known to audiences outside Italy for his pairings with Sophia, and for the five films he made with Italian director Federico Fellini. Handsome, sensitive, very likable, and with a devilish charm, Marcello was well equipped for both comedy and drama and excelled at both. Even if he was playing light comedy (which he often did) there was always a depth in his performances. Marcello Mastrioianni began in Italian films in the 1940s, getting better and better parts through the 1950s. His breakthrough role was in Federico Fellini's 1960 classic "La Dolce Vita”. That film along with 1961's "Divorce Italian Style”, Fellini's 1963 masterpiece “8 ½”, and the subsequent films with Sophia, made Marcello one of Italy’s top actors and a renowned international star.
Mastrioianni was the first male to be nominated for a "Best Actor" Academy Award for a non-English speaking role with the film "Divorce Italian Style”. He received two more "Best Actor" Oscar nominations, one for the 1977 film "A Special Day" opposite Sophia (a film I adore), and one for the 1987 film "Dark Eyes”. He mostly made European films with a couple of American films much later in his career. Among his important films not yet mentioned are "Big Deal on Madonna Street", "La Notte", "White Nights", "A Very Private Affair", "City of Women", "Ginger and Fred", and "Used People". Marcello married once, separating after over 20 years of marriage but never divorcing due to religious beliefs. He was notorious for having many affairs (even during his marriage), often with actresses. His most famous affairs were with Hollywood actress Faye Dunaway and with French actress Catherine Deneuve. His relationship with Deneuve, for whom he left his wife, produced a child (his second, as he had a daughter 21 years earlier with his wife). Marcello Mastroianni died in 1996 at the age of 72.
This may seem ridiculous to mention to seasoned film watchers, but for those who have never seen foreign films I want to make a suggestion. I recommend only watching foreign language films in their native language, with subtitles - never the dubbed version, when possible. Don’t be put off by having to read subtitles - it's not as complicated as you might think. Within minutes you won’t even notice you are reading. Every time I’ve watched foreign films with people who are new to reading subtitles I hear the same reaction - "I didn't even know I was reading!". If you grew up seeing films dubbed (some countries only presented dubbed versions), I highly recommend watching them again in their own native language. That goes for any film, including classic Hollywood films (if you grew up in a non-English speaking country). To watch a Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant, John Wayne, James Stewart, or a Jean Harlow film with a different voice is to not truly know these actors. Everyone’s voice and way of expressing emotion through their voice is unique. To watch someone act with another person’s voice is to miss the essence of their performance. I know Sophia Loren often dubbed her own Italian films into English, but even that is not the same. There is nothing like the energy she has in her voice when speaking in Italian.
Get ready for a spirited time with a truly magnificent film that can be appreciated on many levels. Revel in the outstanding works of three legends of cinema in “Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow”! Enjoy!
YOU CAN STREAM OR BUY THE FILM HERE:
OTHER PLACES TO BUY THE FILM:
TO READ AFTER VIEWING (contains spoilers):
The scene in the final segment of "Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow" when Sophia does a striptease, became iconic. I was lucky to see the film in a movie theater and I was shocked to see that it was even more fun and sexy than on a television screen. This scene became such a classic of its own that in 1994 director Robert Altman (along with Sophia and Marcello) spoofed the scene, recreating the striptease in his film “Ready to Wear”.