Marriage Italian Style‘s title is a reference to Divorce Italian Style, which also starred Marcello Mastroianni and was a big international hit. It also won an Academy Award for best screenplay, a rarity for a foreign language film. However, besides the title and star, there is no real connection between the two films. Marriage Italian Style was directed by Vittorio De Sica, arguably the finest director of the Italian Neo-Realist movement who didn’t eventually leave that style of filmmaking, unlike Fellini or Pasolini.
Marcello Mastroianni plays Domenico Soriano, who is a rich businessman. He meets Filumena Marturano (Sophia Loren), who is a prostitute in a brothel that he frequents. It’s the height of World War II, and they don’t meet again for a few years, but when they eventually run into each other again they start an on-off relationship while she is still working as a prostitute. He meets her as his mistress, and she tends to his sick mother, but Filumena coerces him into marrying her by pretending to be on her deathbed. Domenico has plenty of women on the side, and while he knows they had one kid together, she has three in total and won’t tell him which one is his. In other words, things get complicated.
It certainly doesn’t hold a candle to any of De Sica’s powerful earlier Neo-Realist masterpieces, like The Bicycle Thief or Umberto D. Instead, the film mixes the neo-realist style he is known for with the Italian sex comedy genre that was very popular at the time. It’s totally all over the place—Mastroianni seems to be starring in a sex comedy, while Loren seems to be in a heavy drama about sexist double standards, but these strands end up tying themselves together nicely by the end.
Mastroianni and Loren have natural chemistry, so much so that you would be surprised if they were never an item in real life, especially since they starred together in many films. De Sica also utilizes clever flashbacks to tell the story. These were also in the original play, Filumena Marturano, which the film is based upon. It was previously adapted as an Argentinian musical of the same name in 1950.
The disc includes a solid high-definition transfer and two long documentaries, one on De Sica and the other on Loren. These documentaries are also available on other Cult Films releases that star Loren, are directed by De Sica, or both.