MARRIAGE ITALIAN STYLE (Vittorio De Sica, 1964)

Oversized, opulent, Matrimonio all’italiana is one of Vittorio De Sica’s baubles, an artificially colored marshmallow. Dazzlingly entertaining, it is unworthy of the artist De Sica once was.
     From the play Filumena Marturano by Eduardo De Filippo, adapted by Renato Castellani, Tonino Guerra, Leonardo Benvenuti and Piero De Bernardi, the film encompasses two decades of comedic soap opera, some of which is presented in flashback. The two principal characters are Domenico Soriano, a sexually hyperactive rich businessman, and Filumena, whom he seduces when she is 17 during a World War II bombing raid. In due course Filumena becomes a prostitute and tricks Domenico into marriage; she is in love with him and, however much it seems to the contrary, he may be in love with her. The plot has little connection to reality; its presentation, even less.
     By turns, one or the other character takes center-stage; the two never seem to inhabit the plot coequally at any point. Filumena refuses to disclose to Domenico which of her three sons is his because she loves all three equally. “I would know if one of them is mine,” Domenico at one point insists, but Filumena counters he would have had her “kill” the fetus had he known she was pregnant. This potential plot-hole is covered by the instability of their relationship; Domenico would disappear from Filumena’s life for patches of time. The couple divorce, and the film ends happily—that is, in its own contrived universe—with their remarriage and Domenico’s adoption of all three boys.
     Marcello Mastroianni, brilliantly funny, creates and inhabits the irascible character of Domenico. Sophia Loren, always at her best under De Sica’s guidance, still is not an actress. Rather, she emotes, projects, radiates. We see Domenico; we see Loren playing Filumena.

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