Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow (1963) Directed by Vittorio De Sica
It can cause snickering. People start looking at you in a different light. Once, you could walk on air, then all of a sudden, everything you do is analyzed and evidence for the prosecution. A fall from greatness can be painful and irrefutable. Last night we watched the latest Woody Allen film, You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger. This along with Vicky Cristina Barcelona are two of the most vacuous films I've ever watched by anyone, let alone Allen. He seems to have forgotten what made him great. First clue: it starts with the script. In many respects, by the time De Sica got to Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow (Italian title : Ieri, Oggi, Domani), the same fate had befallen him as Allen. De Sica, once such a shrewd narrator of the Italian working classes on screen, descended into caricature, cliché and, worst of all, sentimentality.
It is easy to think De Sica saw Marcello Mastroianni and Sophia Loren and was starstruck. By now they were Italy's biggest screen exports, international superstars. With Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow, De Sica casts the two as the principle actors in three different stories which cover the post-war Italian class system from top to bottom. You could look at this film as being about the three different women that Loren portrays and her relationship to men. A pre-1960's life in Naples selling cigarettes in the street and conceiving to keep the roof over your head and avoid prison, a millionaire woman driving around Milan picking up artisans to relieve her boredom, a flirtatious upper class hooker in Rome. Loren is very good in these roles, Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow shows us something she rarely gave in English language films.
Mastroianni feels wasted in all of these stories, you miss his cool presence from his earlier Fellini movies. In short, all three stories are farces and here lies the problem. De Sica, still sees these gentle comic tales as a means to make comments on class distinctions, but the edge had gone from his commentary by this stage. Was he too comfortable? Probably. There's still a lot to admire in the look of the film, especially in De Sica's nod to the French New Wave of the Milanese set road story. Loren's strip in the third part is the highlight here, her sensual playfulness shows a daring missing in most of this three-hander.