The Best Old Movies on a Big Screen This Fortnight: NYC Repertory Cinema Picks, December 21-January 3

TWO WOMEN, Sophia Loren, 1960

Two Women (1960)
Directed by Vittorio de Sica
Vittorio de Sica’s adaptation of La Ciociara, a novel by Alberto Moravia (The Conformist and Contempt are also adaptations of Moravia’s books), is a movie about civilians in wartime. But what does it actually mean to be defenseless in a bombed-out landscape, or unarmed when your home becomes the front? Sophia Loren, at 26, plays Cesira, the widowed, well-off mother of a twelve-year-old daughter, Rosetta (Eleonora Brown). Fleeing the Allied bombardment of Rome, the two return to Cesira’s native Ciociaria region, in central Italy. Hidden in the hills are profiteers, as well as poor peasants who don’t much care who wins, as long as they do it before the food runs out; there’s also Jean-Paul Belmondo, as the kind of sensitive, bespectacled intellectual whom melodrama dooms by definition. A constant hassling-unto-harassment by most of the men Cesira and Rosetta meet, as well as short encounters with dogmatic German, ineffectual British, untouchable American, and shirtless Russian soldiers, fill out a theater of war that looks like a rich, tragic-comic spectacle, until a final act of violence forecloses the comic strain. The question of rapes committed by the armies involved in World War II is still, for historians, a numbers question—not whether they occurred, but how many thousands. Here, for de Sica, it is a question on the scale of the individual, or two individuals, whose daily lives are a constant campaign, in which the distinction between civilian and combatant is rendered meaningless. Elina Alter (December 23, 1:30pm at MoMA’s “Le Grandi Donne”)

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