A SPECIAL DAY (UNA GIORNATA PARTICOLARE)
(director/writer: Ettore Scola; screenwriters: Ruggero Maccari/Maurizio Costanzo; cinematographer: Pasqualino De Santis; editor: Raimondo Crociani; music: Armando Trovaioli; cast: Sophia Loren (Antonietta), Marcello Mastroianni (Gabriele), John Vernon (Emanuele, the husband of Antonietta), Franoise Berd (Caretaker), Patrizia Basso (Romana), Tiziano De Persio (Arnaldo), Maurizio Di Paolantonio (Fabio), Antonio Garibaldi (Littorio), Vittorio Guerrieri (Umberto), Alessandra Mussolini (Maria Luisa), Nicole Magny (Officer’s Daughter); Runtime: 106; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Carlo Ponti; Criterion; 1977-Italy/Canada-in Italian with English subtitles)
“An observant drama on the ill-effects of fascism, that’s grounded on the lives of two anguished lonely souls with opposite personalities, beliefs and lives.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Italian filmmaker Ettore Scola (“Splendor”/”The Dinner”) directs and co-writes with Ruggero Maccari from a story they both wrote. It’s an observant drama on the ill-effects of fascism, that’s grounded on the lives of two anguished lonely souls with opposite personalities, beliefs and lives. The guilt-ridden film explores how the director’s beloved country fell for fascism and its evil ways and how two downtrodden opposites make a connection during such depraved times. Experimentally Scola desaturated the colors (giving it a sepia-tone), which gave the historical event a muted documentary film look. The title is derived from the event on May 8, 1938 when there is a rally in Rome to celebrate Hitler’s visit to Mussolini and his Italian allies (depicted in newsreel footage in its opening shot). During that visit, where the population is encouraged to attend the rally, a personal drama unfolds over a chance meeting between two social outsiders, Antonietta (Sophia Loren) and Gabriele (Marcello Mastroianni), who live in the same working-class tenement complex in Rome but never met before. The fascist zealot Emanuele (John Vernon) attends the historic parade, while his anguished apolitical but fascist believing wife Antonietta tends to her household duties and her six children(one more kid and they get a tax break from the fascist regime). During the course of the day Antonietta encounters the intellectual, depressed, bachelor, Gabriele, who is not enthused by the historical event since he was already identified as an anti-fascist and can’t get work after fired from his radio journalist job because of his views and that he’s a homosexual. When Antonietta’s pet mynah bird escapes and is discovered on the courtyard the strangers meet and make a connection, as the suicidal Gabriele comes over to her apartment to chat and break bread. While they try to find a common ground through their loneliness, the two fascist dictators during the special day forge a union for their countries despite the underlying political divide among their people. A Special Day wrestles with ticklish political themes that include gender roles, fascism, and the persecution of homosexuals under the Mussolini regime. It received several nominations and awards, including a César Award for Best Foreign Film, a Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language Film, and two Academy Award nominations in 1978. As for being a persuasive film about the evil nature of fascism, it does its job by being so enriching without being contrived. The characters may seem to change after their encounter but still remain true to their own nature, as they share their life experiences and confront the current world situation which doesn’t allow for much movement. It’s not dated and still works as one of the better and more insightful political films, thanks largely to the fine natural acting by Loren and Mastroianni and the spot-on humanistic directing by Scola.
REVIEWED ON 10/15/2018 GRADE: A- https://dennisschwartzreviews.com/