A first feature, part of the program of films Cinema Ritrovatto screened on Sundays that had Sunday as a theme, a ‘neorealismo rosa’ film, a precursor to the ‘commedia all’italiana’, and one of my favourite films from this year’s festival.
The focus is on a day at the beach on Sunday, mainly filmed on location in Ostia, and including many non-professional actors alongside Marcello Mastrionanni in an early role. The film tells five stories but in an inter-related narrative rather than as a portmanteau film. All five stories are interconnected into one, a day at the beach on Sunday, as a way of depicting a time, a place and a culture with a sharp eye and an understanding heart.
We get to see a young man who cycles to the beach with his cronies but once there goes to the rich private part of the beach. A young girl who’s there with all of her family also sneaks in. Needless to say, they fall in love and at the end discover they’re neighbours in the same working class neighbourhood in Rome. There’s also a story of a young couple. He loves her but she wants a better life than he’s able to offer her. To give it to her he takes part in a robbery of the abbatoir he used to work for. She wants to move up in the world and goes to the beach only to find out the guy who’s her ticket out of poverty is merely a gigolo for a decadent set. Amongst that group is the employer of a maid, made pregnant by a traffic cop (Marcello Mastrioanni) who loves her but needs to find a solution as to how to house her since he lives in barracks and her rich employer, currently at the beach consorting with gigolos, has fired her for being pregnant. There’s also a doctor with a mistress who loves neither him nor his child but makes a connection with a working woman also doing her best to raise a child alone.
Everyone’s life is changed by that Sunday at the beach. There’s love, there’s drama, there’s dancing; there are parents trying to keep an eye on children: pensioners in old folk’s homes who are willing to help the young; decadent rich people who claim they can have it all; middle-class widowers who love their children more than their mistresses; families who bring their own pots to make lunch: all classes are represented. I found it amusing that the protagonists’ idea of rich people is to be blonde, like the English, which of course our young lovers can pass for.
The Centro Cattolico Cinematografico denounced the film as unedifying and with moments of disgusting exhibitionism, and it’s fair to say that woolen late 40s swimming costumes don’t leave a lot to the imagination. It was nominated for a BAFTA and was also judged one of the 100 Italian Films that deserved preservation. It’s one of Marcello Mastrioanni’s first films but he is not yet deemed worthy of his own voice and is dubbed by Alberto Sordi.
It would make a perfect double bill with the British It Always Rains on Sunday, made only a few years earlier.
Domenica D’Agosto is on youtube but without English sub-titles. If you speak Italian you can see it here