Sophia Loren received her first Academy Award nomination and only competitive Oscar to date for playing Cesira, a young Italian widow, who's trying to survive the horrors of WWII along with her daughter in Two Women. Sophia Loren basically won every award for this performance of hers, except for the Golden Globe for which she wasn't even nominated (that's about the Hollywood Foreign Press Association). The 60s were such beautiful times when the Golden Globe winner for Best Actress in a Drama never won (I miss those days when there were surprise winners). I guess if this role had been in English it would have been a shoo-in for the win but thankfully, it won. If we think about it it could not have been any other way. I mean can anyone imagine Sophia Loren without an Oscar? Well, at least I can't.
Two Women is a fantastic movie, in my opinion. I guess this kind of Italian realism is not for everyone but I so love the purity it. There are small leftovers in Two Women from the neorealism (after all it was directed by the brilliant Vittorio de Sica) and it's such a wonderful, touching tale about real women. It's also really interesting to see Jean-Paul Belmondo at such an early age (he almost cannot be recognised).
However, Two Women as a title is a little bit misleading. To tell the truth, it's such a stupid translation (very much like the Hungarian title that says A Woman and her Daughter) as the original title means "the woman from Ciociara". And that says something very significant. It says that this story is mainly about one woman and that is Cesira, played by the wonderful, unforgettable, beautiful and talented Sophia Loren. There's a reason why this performance is considered legendary. It gives the essence of Sophia Loren's whole character and it sums up her career so brilliantly. Katharine Hepburn once said that always the right actors win Oscars, for the wrong roles. That's simply not the case with Sophia Loren. She's really the one who got the award for the performance of her lifetime. Before this, in Hollywood, Sophia Loren was considered the sexy, sensual Latin woman who's singing to Cary Grant's children. If you're looking for this Sophia Loren, you'll surely be surprised but not disappointed. I guess that's another reason that contributed to her win: this was such a stunning, shocking achievement that you would never expect from a sex symbol.
It's amazing to see how many faces of Cesira Sophia shows. She's playing with the emotions so confidently and yet she never gets self-satisfied. Obviously, she knows what she's doing but I never felt that she was as self-aware as her fellow nominee, Geraldine Page. While the technical part of the performance, the timing and such are all brilliant, it's the stunning emotions that are really memorable in this work. They range from pride to desperation, through fear, passion, anger, fury, happiness, grief, sorrow, worry and above all, love. Above all, this performance is a beautiful tribute to women's (especially mother's) love. How strong it can be and that it can survive anything and such. It sounds very cheesy but it's all there in Sophia's performance and it seems so natural. In my review of Penélope Cruz in Volver, I was raving about Cruz's ability to recreate the greatness and earthy strength of the women of the European cinema in the twentieth century. However, in Two Women, it's all present in its true, original form, without any irony. Sophia Loren walks on the street, you see her and you're just blown away by her presence. You instantly say "What a woman!".
This performance is much more than that, though. Loren's chemistry with Eleonora Brown (the girl who plays her daughter, Rosetta) is just excellent. You see them as mother and daughter and I alway believe that Cesira would really sacrifice her life for her. Sophia made this relationship so real and so close to the audience that it's really astonishing. The constant worry that we see on Sophia's face in each and every second is so heart-breaking. I knew that horrible things would happen to them and yet I was hoping just like she was hoping. The scene where she tries to collect as much food as possible is just unforgettable. And her small interactions with Jean-Paul Belmondo are utterly fantastic. There's so much tension between them and they make some of the best scenes in this film.
However, the parts that are really unforgettable (and in the worst way possible) are in the last 20 minutes of the movie. Cesira and her daughter are gang raped by soldiers in a church and it's an almost unbearable scene. Those screams, the fear in the eyes. Sophia is so brutally realistic there that I really had trouble trying to go on. After that, Cesira gets deeper and deeper into devastation. Her big monologue (which would be her Oscar clip if she was nominated now) where she attacks some soldiers is almost as terrifying as the rape scene. Sophia mercilessly shows all the effects of this horrible thing. That hysterical cry and the way she puts her hand on her face. Brilliant, heart-breaking, unforgettable. And so are the last seconds of film where we see a broken, devastated and yet somehow hoping Cesira. I identified with Cesira's emotions so much that I totally forgot everything. It was just her, not me. It's chilling to see her tears rolling. So perfect, so natural and so tragic. And the best thing is that Sophia always remains beautiful. It's not a deglam role. Her radiant beauty (which comes from her personality, above all) shines through the screen and matched with her wonderful acting, they make up a cathartic experience. Unbelievable.
I know I should sum up his performance somehow but I feel that this whole review was the shortened version of how I feel about her. Nothing can come close to this wonderful emotionality, the radiant, brilliant personality of Sophia Loren (none of the Hollywood stars of her time can come close to her). This watch of the movie and my review was the ultimate test of my love for this performance and it passed. With distinction. :)
Again, the rating is so useless but the system should work.
What do you think?