This Oscar-winning international film great and I share a birthday. My late mom used to say to me every year, "You and Sophia Loren -- born on the same day, September 20th!" My parents, Mom especially, adored Sophia Loren.
I vividly and happily recall being a little boy, sitting in the back seat of our Plymouth, hearing my parents hearty laughter as Sophia Loren did a striptease for Marcello Mastroianni in De Sica's YESTERDAY, TODAY AND TOMORROW, one of the many films we saw at the drive-in movies in Los Angeles.
During the actress' long marriage to film producer Carlo Ponti, the entertainment news reported that Loren had trouble holding a pregnancy. The couple had no children. One Sunday as we went to church, Mom said "We're going to light a candle and pray that Sophia Loren can have children." That's how much a fan my mother was. And, yes, I did say Hail Marys after we lit the candle at church. Loren won the Best Actress Oscar for her gripping performance as an Italian widow with a daughter surviving World War 2 in 1963's TWO WOMEN, also directed by Vittorio De Sica.
Sophia Loren's strength and power and charisma as a movie star have not dimmed. The actress delivers the goods in this feature. She plays Madame Rosa, a former prostitute and Holocaust survivor who now acts as sort of a guardian to the children of young hookers. Madame Rosa is still street smart. She can be kind, manipulative and a fairly immovable object when it comes to wanting her way. Loren, at times, holds herself with a majesty that suggests someone who was fully aware how her looks and sexual appeal could mean financial survival. The eyes, lined but not overdone with make-up, are expressive and have a worldly-wise glamour. The lips are full and attractive. Loren with her fabulous face and figure was an arresting screen beauty. But, in Loren's career, she treated the face and figure as great assets to help her art. They were gifts from heaven that she used wisely and with heart. Her main focus was the art of acting. Because of that, she can and has aged gracefully. Her career was not just about her looks.
This is the story of two opposites thrown together who have more in common than they realize. Rosa becomes the guardian to a bitter street kid, a Senegalese immigrant, who stole from her and sells drugs. Both know the streets and both live partially in a dream state. He notices there are times when Madame Rosa wanders through the apartment like a ghost. He, at night, dreams of a lioness. The more the boy learns about Madame Rosa, the more he learns about himself. Eventually, he becomes her protector. His name of Momo and he is played terrifically by young Ibrahima Gueye. Director Ponti draws a natural, excellent performance from him. He and \Sophia Loren shine together. This feature runs about 90 minutes and is worth watching. I loved it. Edoardo Ponti presents his movie star mother in very fine form. The actress can still amaze you. Here's a clip from THE LIFE AHEAD now on Netflix with English subtitles.