With a warm mood, A Brief Vacation draws viewers in through Ennio Guarnieri's sensitive camerawork, and offers genuine intimacy with the female lead, Clara Mataro (Bolkan). A warning for fidgety types: The pace is slow, but appropriate, and the movie is well worthwhile.
Clara and husband Franco (Salvatori) have joined southern Italy's post-World War II exodus to Milan. Her factory job is their only income after he's hit by a motorcycle. Exhausted by her job, her three children, her resident parents-in-law, and now a husband who does little more than demand nightly sex, Clara tells new friend Gina (Gimpera) that she and Franco married for love, but now are "too poor to think about it." And, she has never taken a sick day.
Then, Clara collapses at work. At the health clinic, she meets Luigi (Quenaud), who takes her to a cafe so she can sit down. Her brother-in-law (Blanco) sees the pair, and throws a fit. Returning with Clara to the clinic the next day, Franco and his mother (Carena) say nothing about Clara's apparent unfaithfulness, and resist advice from the doctor (Prada): that Clara should go to a t.b. sanitarium for a month.
Clara's room there offers her a first taste of solitude. At the sanitarium, not only is Clara finally forced to be at leisure, but eats well, finds friends, and enhances her glamor. She reads Tolstoy, and quickly befriends a few lively patients (Cardile, Guerritori, and Pena), who pass the time giving Clara a makeover. Clara also has a delicate romance with Luigi, which is interrupted when her family suddenly visits, which makes the viewer wonder whether Clara's transformation can last. She confides to Luigi, "Milan has a way of knocking the love out of people." The sad ending nonetheless has a ray of hope.
Clara's newfound female solidarity and the love of a tender man, encourage her to blossom in a cold world. Sensitive men who appreciate heroines' struggling against brutish husbands remain a melodramatic staple, but it works here.
Ennio Guarnieri filmed the impressive Alps' exteriors to stunning effect, and De Sica's son Manuel provided the unobtrusive musical score, as he did for his father's earlier movies. Note for stay-at-home movie buffs: the DVD's playback quality is excellent.
Vittorio De Sica
Rodolfo Sonego (story), Rafael J. Salvia, and A. Zavattini
Renato Salvatori, Florinda Bolkan, Daniel Quenaud, José María Prada, Adriana Asti, Teresa
Women trapped in bad marriage; Alps, vacation, female solida
Italian Reviewer's Name:
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