This week in Hit Me With Your Best Shot, Nathaniel introduced me to Vittorio De Sica’s Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow. I’m not gonna lie and pretend that I’m not a little annoyed by the lack of an oxford comma in the movie’s English title, but otherwise, this is an incredibly lovely movie. A comedic triptych of Italian relationships portrayed by every cinephile’s favorite Italians: Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni.
Now, this week is a little different than usual, as Nathaniel has asked us to pick a scene from each of the movie’s three sections. Let’s begin with the story of Adelina from Napoli, which might be my favorite of the three. It’s strange, because for a story about a woman who is trying to avoid going to jail, the stakes turn out to be relatively low. Similarly, the plot doesn’t evolve in what I would call a traditionally satisfying manner (coincidences, unexplained solutions), and the character’s actions aren’t always believable. But all these apparent flaws make the story all the more charming.
The segment’s tone can’t exactly be described as “magic realism”, but it’s not far from it. It’s a romantic story between Marcello and Sophia’s characters, but also a Romantic story about the beauty and solidarity of community and neighborhood. Despite being set in contemporary Italy, it plays like an old folk-tale set in a time when everybody -even the antagonists- wanted the best thing for each other (I think of the way the policeman smiles when Adelina presents him with her pregnancy certificate).
This is clear in my pick for best shot, which comes after the segment’s first sequence. A man has come to Adelina’s house to settle a debt. She owes him an amount of money that she simply doesn’t have. The man threatens to take away her furniture, except she is so poor that she doesn’t have any, and he has to go away. During this whole thing, the whole neighborhood has come out to take a peek at what is going on. A symptom, I though, of small-town gossip. But when the man leaves, all neighbors celebrate, and it is revealed that they’d been hiding Adelina’s furniture so it couldn’t be taken away. Here is the surprising and cheerful shot:
The second segment takes us to Ana from Milan, a socialite married to a rich man. This time, Sophia and Marcello are having an affair. He isn’t nearly as rich as her husband, and isn’t sure the affair is a good idea. They drive around, and they fight a lot. There’s a lot of bickering in this segment, which makes us wonder why are these two together? Well, the answer is because they are Sophia and Marcello, how can they resist each other? And if you don’t accept that explanation, then you have this shot where Sophia climbs over Marcello to get to the passenger seat.
Our final segment takes the form of a farce, as Mara from Rome, a high-end prostitute, experiences somewhat of an identity crisis after her young neighbor -a soon-to-be priest- falls in love with her. In the middle of the tension between Mara, neighbor, and the neighbor’s grandma, stands Marcello, a businessman from Bologna who just wants to get it on with the lovely Mara. There are many beautiful images in this section. I particularly like the moment when the young neighbor finally packs his luggage before leaving for seminar, and the amazing shot of Sophia holding a cat with the Roman twilight in the background. But if we’re going to start talking about cats, well, then I only have one possible shot, which is not only cute and awesome, but encapsulates the comedic talent of Mastroianni, because it’s really his and Loren’s commitment that make Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow as good as it is.