100+ YEARS OF THE GREAT ITALIAN MOVIEMAKERS
After nearly a decade away from the spotlight, Sophia Loren has returned to the screen in a film directed by her son Edoardo Ponti. Now available on Netflix, “La vita davanti a sé” (The Life Ahead) is based on French writer Romain Gary’s novel “The Life Before Us.”
Ponti co-wrote the screenplay with veteran screenwriter Ugo Chiti, whose recent credits include Matteo Garrone’s “Dogman” and “Gomorrah.” Loren gives a heartfelt performance as Madame Rosa, a survivor of Auschwitz and former prostitute who cares for the children of her fellow sex workers.
The film opens with Madame Rosa shopping at an open-air market when a young boy runs up from behind her and steals her purse. When a longtime friend, played by Renato Carpentieri, pleads with her to be a foster parent for the very same boy — a Senegalese orphan named Momo — she at first refuses but then reconsiders because she desperately needs the stipend being offered for his care.
Momo and Madame Rosa clash at first, but he begins to warm to her unique family, which includes Lola, a trans sex worker and former middleweight boxing champion. He eventually bonds with Madame Rosa as her health deteriorates and she descends into paranoid flashbacks of life in the concentration camp.
Though Momo is involved with a local drug dealer, Madame Rosa cannot deny her attachment to the youngster, realizing he’s honest and reliable despite his rough edges. He doesn’t disappoint, coming through for her at the end of her life in response to one last request.
The film marks the third collaboration between mother and son, which began in 2002 with Ponti's debut feature film, “Between Strangers,” and then again in 2014 on his short film, “Human Voice,” which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival. I caught up with Ponti then and asked him about working with his legendary mother. “My father produced many of my mother’s films, so working with loved ones is natural for us. The lines of communication are already well-oiled and open,” he explained.
And what was her approach to raising her children in the spotlight? “What’s amazing is how grounded she is. She never allowed us to be seduced by her success or believe in the glamour of her profession. She is a woman who lives for her family and for her own personal growth. She has an enormous appetite to work and to tackle roles that she has not yet tackled. It is beautiful for us to look up to our mother and admire the woman that she is. She is an exceptional human being.” Click here to read our complete interview.
Loren is also the subject of a captivating new half-hour documentary on Netflix. “What Would Sophia Loren Do?” is the tale of an 82-year-old Italian-American grandmother who has looked to her screen idol for inspiration throughout her life.
The film opens with Nancy “Vincenza Careri” Kulik talking about her well-intended children offering her diet and exercise tips that include eating less fruit because it contains too much sugar and more pumpkin seeds because they’re “so good for you.” What follows is a poignant tale of love, loss and dealing with life’s curveballs. It’s a moving and charming film that concludes with an unexpected, emotion-filled ending. Click here to stream it.
If these contemporary films featuring the Neapolitan screen goddess have you feeling nostalgic, you can also catch her 1955 comedies, “The Sign of Venus” and “Scandal in Sorrento,” on Netflix. Watching these four gems will give you some sense of the monumental sweep and impact of Loren’s eight-decade career.
“The Life Ahead” has made the Oscar short list in two Music categories: Original Score and Original Song for “Io sì (Seen),” which was written by 11-time Oscar-nominated songwriter Diane Warren and performed by Italian vocalist Laura Pausini. The nominations will be announced on March 15, with the awards ceremony set to air in April. The film was nominated for two Golden Globes for Best Foreign Language Film and Best Original Song, and it's just been announced that Loren will receive the Nastro D'Argento's ‘Nastro Di Platino’ for her performance.
-Written by Jeannine Guilyard for the March 2021 issue of Fra Noi Magazine. Click here to subscribe.
Reinventing herself yet again after eight decades in the industry, the cinematic icon returns to the screen with an offbeat triumph.
Copyright © 2018 Italian Cinema Today - All Rights Reserved.