Vittorio De Sica is one of the key directors of the Italian Neo-Realist movement. Before Two Women he made his name with the 3 film punch of Bicycle Thieves, Miracle in Milan and Umberto D. Two Women would also mark the first of many collaborations with Sophia Loren whom De Sica worked with on a great number of his later films.
The term slow-burn is very common is film criticism nowadays but Two Women is a perfect example of a slow-burn. The film is set during WW2 and the two women of the title are the widow Cesira (Loren) and her 12-year-old daughter Rosetta (Eleonora Brown). The film depicts their struggles after they leave Rome after its bombed daily and Cesire decides it might be safer in the small village she grew up in. French New Wave icon Jean-Paul Belmondo plays Cesira’ love interest Michele who is a leftist intellectual. However the war is creeping into the village and the two women will experience the horrors of war firsthand.
De Sica of course is a master filmmaker and gets the best out of his cast especially Loren who would become the first actor ever to win an Oscar for a performance not in the English language. This was mostly down to an extensive campaign by US distributor Joseph E. Levine who showed it in every American town that a member of the Academy lived. It is a spellbinding performance even it’s probably slightly bigger than how somebody would do the performance now but it’s still deeply moving and affective.
The film remains a profound statement on the scars that the most innocent get when they are stuck in wartime. The scares here are psychological and sexual and no filmmaker understood the differences between the rich and poor more than De Sica. The final shot is truly haunting and unforgettable. Belmondo was cast because they got some French funding and despite being overdubbed from his original voice he is still his usual great self.
The release comes under the Cult Films label which is sub-label of Argent Films. The disc includes a HD transfer which is a debut in the English-speaking world, previously available in Italy and Spain. The first special feature is a fairly extensive and wide-ranging interview with Sophia Loren which is around the 50 minute mark. The other feature is a 90 minute documentary on the life and work of Vittorio De Sica so all in all excellent package.