La Ciociara (1961) from Tuna and Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

La Ciociara, aka Two Women, was written and directed by Vittorio De Sica, and garnered Sophia Loren a Best Actress Oscar. To the best of my knowledge, the is the only case of a non-American receiving Best Actress for a foreign language film.

The story takes place in WW II Italy. Loren is a comfortably affluent shop owner in Rome, when the German bombing causes her to flee with her teenaged daughter to the rural community she came from. At first, things are fine in the country, and both Loren and her daughter become close to Jean-Paul Belmondo, who is a an intelligent and sensitive dissident. As the war escalates, however, food becomes scarce and various troops create more real danger for Loren and her daughter, as first the Germans, then the allies overrun the village. Loren elects to go back to Rome after liberation, but both she and her daughter are brutally raped by a platoon of Moroccans in a bombed out church.


An unknown woman bares a breast, telling Loren and her daughter that they might as well drink her milk, as the Germans just machine gunned her baby. Loren shows cleavage, especially after the rape, and all of one leg and her panties when her skirt blows up.
It is a powerful statement about the effects of war on ordinary citizens. Loren earned the Oscar with a great performance.  

Note: The DVD I screened is a green, mushy and under-contrasted 4/3 transfer, with inconsistent brightness and is dubbed in English. There are three different DVD's available at Amazon

Scoop's notes in yellow:

It was the last war which seemed clearly necessary and the last in which the cause seemed clearly just. Soon there will nobody left with first hand memories. It has been 57 years since the great war ended, and the only people who can still remember it are old, their memories dimming. It was fought by my dad's generation, and it was as important a thing as any generation has ever been asked to do. They did it well, and with as much honor as ever a war could be conducted given the nature of war to begin with. When it was over, the United States, unlike Russia, treated the liberated countries and the defeated countries with compassion and integrity. European winners and losers alike were nursed back to prosperity. The same generation again rolled up their sleeves back home in peacetime, built a powerful economy, and raised their families in prosperity and innocence, sheltered from the war and starvation which had characterized their own childhoods in the 30's and 40's.

I love to hear the old people in Europe talk about the war, because they had so many unique experiences. I hope that the great writers and filmmakers are preserving all those memories, because nobody could create them from imagination alone. I worked with an older man who was a young boy when the Germans marched through. He ran from them, and before he could hook up with others, he spent about four nights sleeping alone in the forests and wetlands and wherever he could hide safely from the enemy soldiers. His most vivid childhood memory was the sound he heard during those nights, the sound of the cattle lowing, in horrible pain, begging to be milked, but with no human hands to milk them.

Two Women shares several of those unique memories with us. Tuna refers to one in his nudity comments. A woman has lost her baby to the war, but has breasts full of milk. All around her, people are starving to death. What is more logical than to offer her milk to others?  To me, this quiet moment defines the time with great clarity and insight.

I like Vittorio DeSica's films very much, and I think it's about time that somebody started to assemble his classics in deluxe DVD's with remastered originals and clean transfers. Nobody is better at telling the story of wartime and post-war Italy than DeSica (The Bicycle Thief), and "Two Women" is an important film about this period. It deserves better than the shabby DVD's which are available now.

Although DeSica's name is generally well remembered and recognized by film lovers, all of his great films were written or co-written by Cesare Zavattini, who is largely forgotten. Together they were one of the greatest and longest-running artistic tandems in history, their partnership lasting some 30 years.

The Critics Vote

The People Vote ...

IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is a C+. This excellent film has only a little cross-over appeal. Fans of the stars, and those interested in anti-war statements and history will want to see it, but most will probably find it depressing. (Scoop's note: I guess C+ is right, based on what we have available. It might be a film that would reach out to mass audiences if somebody would issue a quality print on DVD with a choice of dubbing or subtitles. The existing DVD's are terrible. Tuna saw a DVD that was all green, dubbed in English. Mine was all purple, in Italian, and with quality worse than a typical video tape.)

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