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The Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of

Friday, January 28, 2000
A Special Day
Ettore Scola Italy, 1977

(Una giornata speciale). In Italy in 1938, it's a special day indeed when Hitler comes to town. All of Rome, it seems, turns out to cheer his (now famous) celebration of the axis with Il Duce. Antonietta (Sophia Loren), a harried, drawn mother of six (with seven, you get a medal), has packed off her uniformed brood and imagines she is alone in the apartment block. But Gabriele (Mastroianni), a blacklisted radio announcer, is in his flat across the courtyard, contemplating suicide as he awaits deportation to Sardinia as a homosexual. With nothing in common but the empty building resonating with the radio sounds of the unseen rally, the two share an alternately comic and pathetic day together, and some kind of love. This brief encounter between two of fascism's castoffs is just that: melodrama never really saved anyone. In the end, Gabriele goes to his fate as Antonietta's husband comes home, all fired up to work toward that medal. Scola's acclaimed chamber piece cast the great star team "against type," only to reveal the hollowness of that phrase. (JB)

• Written by Ruggero Maccari, Scola, with the collaboration of Maurizio Costanzo. Photographed by Pasqualino De Santis. With Sophia Loren, Marcello Mastroianni, John Vernon, Fran├žoise Berd. (106 mins, In Italian with English subtitles, Color, 35mm, Permission Kit Parker Films)