Kino Lorber // 1964 // 101 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Patrick Bromley // May 25th, 2011
"It feels so wonderful to cry."
Reading the plot description and looking at the cover art on Kino Lorber's new Blu-ray of Vittorio De Sica's 1964 film Marriage Italian Style, I had every reason that the film was going to be a long way from Bicycle Thieves, the neorealist classic for which De Sica is best known. What's advertised is a sexy '60s farce about infidelity and unconventional romances; while the film is very much about these things, there's little that's farcical or sexy about it. It's a mostly-serious drama about the specific struggles of a woman (Sophia Loren in an Oscar-nominated performance) who has forever put herself second and who finally decides to try and take what she wants. It's a character piece, filled with sadness and heartbreak and raw emotion, giving it more in common Bicycle Thieves than one might think.
Loren plays Filumena, a beautiful Italian woman who, as the film opens, appears to be on her deathbed. As we flashback many years to find Filumena a young woman who meets and quickly falls in love with Domenico (Marcello Mastroianni, 8 1/2), a successful businessman who takes her as his mistress. For many years, he hides her away from the world, putting her up in an apartment and having her work for him but never going public with their relationship. After years of being kept a secret and taken advantage of, Filumena finally takes matters into her own hands, revealing long-kept secrets to Domenico and forcing him to make their relationship legitimate.
The surprises in Marriage Italian Style are not particularly well-kept; I've tried to avoid revealing too much here, but any quick search for a plot summary will reveal more than you should know going into the movie. If you intend to see it, I suggest you stay away from reading too much about it and go in cold. Not that the movie is particularly concerned with twists and revelations, but it's best to experience the kind of heightened emotions on display here alongside the characters -- standing outside of the film as just a distant observer robs a film like this of much of its power.
Ultimately, a movie like Marriage Italian Style rests on the shoulders of its two lead actors, both of whom are more than capable of delivering first-rate, human performances and still feeling like larger-than-life movie stars. Loren, in particular, was a surprise for me; though she's always been on my radar as a sex symbol and an icon, my exposure to her actual acting work (particularly from her younger days) has been limited. To see her infuse her part with such sadness and passion was to gain new appreciation for her as an actress, and the film is very clever in the way that it plays on certain stereotypes of Italian women but fleshes them out, showing us the humanity and fully-lived lives that exist underneath. This is a film about what women can be willing to sacrifice for the people in their lives, be they lovers, children or family, and Loren is incredible as a woman who has been beaten up by life but who is no less strong as a result. Much of the scenery in the film is gorgeous as well, but that's not really a surprise coming from the father of neorealism; De Sica knows how to photograph the streets of Italy in their natural state, and while Marriage Italian Style never runs to the risk of becoming a superficial travelogue, it does make a great advertisement for the Italian tourism industry. Of course, so does Sophia Loren.
Kino Lorber's Blu-ray of Marriage Italian Style is being released as part of their "Sophia Loren Award Collection" (which also includes Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow and Sunflower, both of which also co-star Marcello Mastroianni and both of which were directed by Vittorio De Sica). The visual presentation is somewhat problematic; while a decent amount of grain is consistent throughout, the image never seems to stabilize -- the colors appear to flicker throughout the entire film. I kept waiting for this to correct itself or eventually go away, but it never does. Some source flaws are visible at times (including a scratch that's pretty persistent), but even those are forgivable considering the film's age. It's the stabilization issue that proved most distracting. The TrueHD mono audio track is serviceable but relatively flat, more concerned with being faithful to the source than giving a dynamic presentation. The film is in Italian with English subtitles.
The only extras offered are trailers for the other titles in the "Sophia Loren Award Collection" and a stills gallery. A retrospective on Loren or on De Sica's career would have been welcome additions, but there's no such substantive piece here.
Aside from that one issue with the video, Marriage Italian Style is not guilty.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Kino Lorber
* 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* TrueHD 1.0 Mono (Italian)
Running Time: 101 Minutes
Release Year: 1964
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Photo Gallery