Ieri, Oggi, Domani (Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow) (1963) ***
Robert Benchley wrote that you can divide the world into two groups of people: those who divide the world into two groups of people and those who do not. Nonetheless, I think it is useful to divide cineastes into those who think the coolest movies of the 1960s were made in Italy, and those who prefer those made in France.
The latter have Godard and Karina and Truffaut and Belmondo and the New Wave. The former have Loren and Mastroianni, Fellini and Antonioni and Monica Vitti.
I suppose it will come as no surprise to anyone who has been here before that I am in the Italian camp, and this is one of our sacred texts. It's not weighty like L'Avventura, or magical like La Strada. It's purely cool; fluff, but perfect fluff.
To those who never forgave De Sica for abandoning the purity and seriousness of Neo-realism it was merely confirmation that he had fully embraced commercialist froth. But for everyone else it's a wonderful concoction, three short stories, each starring Marcello and Sophia, that riff on various aspects of sexual duplicity and gamesplaying, and in which everything is stunning and uncomplicated: the cast, the locations, the photography, the music, the atmosphere.
Wrong to imply that it is entirely without substance - far from it - each vignette will give you plenty to think about and discuss with whoever watches it with you. They are like psychological pencil sketches, that allow the viewer to fill in the detail and the colour. But the overall effect is leagues away from the bleakness and introspection of Antonioni: it's light; effervescent, effortlessly Italian.
If you're on it's wavelength it's like going home. That's why De Sica, for me, is second only to Fellini, and only my iron disciplined objectivity withholds the fourth star.