For this week's Best Shot, we're looking at the anthology rom-com Yesterday Today and Tomorrow (Oscar's Best Foreign Language Film Winner for 1964) starring everyone's favorite Italian screen couple Sophia Loren & Marcello Mastrioanni³. I've asked participants to choose a third of the movie to Best Shot, or, one shot from each of the three segments within the film by tomorrow night. If I have time I'll do "Today" and "Tomorrow" but my favorite segment is the first. This is not to say that it's downhill from there (it's not) just that it's the most exuberantly delightful of three distinctively pleasurable segments.
The first story is about the Sbaratti's, a poor couple who realize that the wife Adelina, pregnant with baby #2, will be sent to prison because they refused to pay their fines and keep avoiding punitive measures like furniture repossession. Her husband Carmine is always unemployed while she sells blackmarket cigarettes on the streets with other poor women. They learn from a reluctant lawyer that Adelina can't be arrested because she's pregnant and thus gets an automatic reprieve. And so this exuberant comedy about a boisterous poor neighborhood morphs into a marital sex comedy as temperamental Adelina & gadabout Carmen attempt to stay pregnant for years on end. Both actors do excellent physical comedy, getting big laughs from gestures and their inimitable chemistry. Time shifts are indicated not by anything as rote as identifying text but the number of children (mostly unnamed) hanging from the couples arms and what their friend happens to be selling in the streets; cherry season? Uh oh, the cops are coming 'round again.
Vittoria de Sica's direction is just sublime and the movements of the camera tracking the couple, their neighbors and the police are often rich with storytelling beats and comic pleasure. The most delightful sequence oddly doesn't involve either star. Instead it follows the spread of the news of this pregnancy loophole amongst the sales women with physical gestures indicating Adelina's big stomach and travel up these steps and then higher still into windows and across balconies and then at the highest altitude it begins to descend again when group of street urchins start chanting "she's expecting, she's expecting" mimicking the adult chatter as they march, their numbers swelling as more and more children join in, snaking back down the streets in the same pattern we always see Adelina walking. It's so smart and funny and lively... would that more films had this sort of energy paired with actual visual storytelling.
But this is Best Shot not Best Scene so I'm opting for the mirror of that always bustling marketplace -- this time it empties out in a flash (the cops are coming) leaving us only Adelina. She never budges as everyone scatters and flaunts first her doctors note (pregnant again), her new baby, and then her nursing breast to shoo the cops away. Adelina's pride in her fertility is amusing throughout "i'll take as many as god gives me" and Loren nails the absurd comedy of it all without ever losing the humanity of the character.
Highly recommended and available on Netflix Instant Watch.
See the other choices for Best Shot from 12 additional points of view