Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow
It’s a lot of fun when cinema throws up acting pairs that clearly love working together and get to experiment with different performances many times over the course of a career. William Powell and Myrna Loy never failed to electrify the screen with their performances, whether in The Thin Man series or the other eight films they appeared in together; Lauren Bacall seemed to energise Humphrey Bogart when they were á deux while Amitabh Bachchan can barely make a movie without Rekha at his side. But would the energy be like if each were asked to play multiple characters in the same movie?
Director Vittorio De Sica experimented with a number of anthology films in the the 1960s and 70s, sometimes working with other directing talents as in Boccaccio 70 and taking the helm on his own as with Woman Times Seven and this film, Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow. Clearly besotted, he casts leading lady Sophia Loren three times – opposite a triplicate Marcello Mastroianni – in roles that span the three social classes of post-war Italy.
The first tale follows Adelina, a struggling housewife who supplements her income selling black market cigarettes. But hanging over her is an outstanding payment on a houseful of furniture. Her deadbeat husband hides the goods from the baliffs which results in an astronomical fine in her name, that threatens prison time if not paid. But there is a legal loophole. If Adelina is with child she cannot be taken to jail. Hence she embarks on a period of constant pregnancy, that kicks ball down the road but at least keeps her clear of the clink.
Upper class Anna is struggling with her ennui in the second tale while she embarks on a weekend affair with her kept man. It’s the most slight of the three but fun. In the final story Loren plays a high class prostitute whose mere presence tempts her young neighbour away from the seminary, forcing some introspection and good deeds on her part to get him back on the path to the Vatican.
So what do Adelina, Anna, and Mara have in common? Well, for a start all three have very liberal views toward sex. Adelina not only relishes using sex as a political weapon but is not ashamed to call her husband out when he eventually, after the seventh child, finds he has no more energy or inclination to bed down with his wife. Anna is bored by her life of endless cocktail parties she will embark on affairs at the drop of a hat. Meanwhile Mara finds herself in such a sellers’ market she can not only turn down offers from clients but string along one of her more feisty regulars for days and days.
De Sica’s politics are clear in all three tales. Millionaire Anna claims that money means nothing to her but when her car crashes she soon reveals her true character, whereas salt of the Earth Neopolitans demonstrate the strength of their local community when they quickly rally around to help out the struggling Adelina. Of course as with most right-on cinematic dreamers he chooses to overlook the preposterous short termism of his heroes who would rather bankrupt themselves with more future mouths to feed than face up to a single jolt of unpleasantness. And God damn if there is a better allegory for the modern state of Mediterranean EU states I for one would love to see it.
Overall all three stories are very entertaining and showcase some great performances by Loren and her co star Mastroianni.
Ieri, Oggi, Domani aka Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow – directed by Vittorio De Sica (1963)
An anthology taking in the lives and struggles of three very different Italian woman and the imapct their actions have on the men in their lives.