A women lives a miserable life in the basement of her Milan apartment, with her boring inlaws and three children (boys). Her husband has been injured. Her bleak life takes an unexpected ... See full summary »
A women lives a miserable life in the basement of her Milan apartment, with her boring inlaws and three children (boys). Her husband has been injured. Her bleak life takes an unexpected turn when she is diagnosed with tuberculosis and has to go to a sanatorium in the Italian Alps. At the medical clinic in Milan she meets young mechanic with the similar health problems. At the sanatorium she meets again the same man and they start a passionate love affair. All good things must come to an end. When she is cured, she has to return to that rathole from which she only briefly emerged. Written by
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Vittorio De Sica collaborated again on this excellent film with screenwriter Cesare Zavattini, as he had in the postwar "Shoe Shine," "The Bicycle Thief," Umberto D," and their 60s French film "A Young World." They have fashioned, from a story by Rodolfo Sonego, a realistic and at times romantic drama about an Italian housewife (Florinda Bolkan in an amazing performance), living in a Milan suburb and married to a crass husband (Renato Salvatori) who treats her like a pack animal.
She supports the husband, unemployed because of an accident as well as her three sons and several in-laws, by working in a grim factory worse than that in Petri's "The Working Class Goes to Heaven" or Rossellini's "Europa '51."
She collapses from exhaustion and TB and is sent at company expense for "una breve vacanza" at a sanatorium in the Dolomites. Here she experiences a major change and awakening, not merely physical and emotional (as in a tender relationship with a machinist) but a profound radical change in which she examines for the first time her fundamental nature as a human being and as a woman. She can never be the same after she returns home.
Italian class and sex attitudes are perceptively analyzed here, and there is un unforgettable characterization by Adriana Asti as a foul-mouthed yet compassionate woman in the last days of a terminal illness. (Remember her in Bertolucci's "Before the Revolution"?)
I find it ironic that though this great "feminist" movie was written and directed by men, it is more effective in that regard in ways that its contemporary "Swept Away," made by a woman, is not.
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