A Special Day

Last updated
A Special Day
Una giornata particolare).jpg
Film poster
Directed by Ettore Scola
Written by Ruggero Maccari
Ettore Scola
Maurizio Costanzo
Produced by Carlo Ponti
Starring Sophia Loren
Marcello Mastroianni
John Vernon
Françoise Berd
Cinematography Pasqualino De Santis
Edited by Raimondo Crociani
Music by Armando Trovajoli
Compagnia Cinematografica Champion
Canafox Films
Distributed byGold Film
Release dates
  • 17 May 1977 (1977-05-17)(Cannes)
  • 12 August 1977 (1977-08-12)(Italy)
Running time
106 minutes

A Special Day (Italian : Una giornata particolare) is a 1977 Italian drama film directed by Ettore Scola and starring Sophia Loren, Marcello Mastroianni and John Vernon. Set in Rome in 1938, its narrative follows a woman and her neighbor who stay home the day Adolf Hitler visits Benito Mussolini. It is an Italian-Canadian co-production.


Themes addressed in the film include gender roles, fascism, and the persecution of homosexuals under the Mussolini regime. It received several nominations and awards, including a César Award for Best Foreign Film, a Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language Film, and two Academy Award nominations in 1978. It is featured on the list of the 100 Italian films to be saved.


Gabriele (Mastroianni) and Antonietta (Loren) in her living room Una giornata particolare2.jpg
Gabriele (Mastroianni) and Antonietta (Loren) in her living room

On May 4, 1938, the day Hitler visits Mussolini in Rome, Antonietta, a naïve, sentimental and overworked homemaker, stays home doing her usual domestic tasks, while her fascist husband, Emanuele, and their six spoiled children take to the streets to follow a parade. The building is empty, except for the caretaker and a neighbor across the complex, a charming man named Gabriele. He is a radio broadcaster who has been dismissed from his job and is about to be deported to Sardinia because of his homosexuality and alleged anti-fascist stance. After the family's myna escapes from their apartment and flies outside Gabriele's window, Antonietta shows up at his door, asking to be let in to reach the bird. Gabriele has been interrupted from attempting suicide, but helps rescue the myna by offering it food, and is amused by the episode. Antonietta is surprised by his demeanor and, unaware of his sexual orientation, flirts and dances the rumba with him.

Despite their differences, they warm to each other. The caretaker warns Antonietta that Gabriele is an anti-fascist, which Antonietta finds despicable. Gabriele eventually opens up, confessing he was fired because he is a homosexual. Antonietta confides in him her troubles with her arrogant and unfaithful husband; who, she says, has shown a preference for an educated woman. Throughout their interaction and conversation, each realize that the other is oppressed by social and governmental conditioning and come to form a new impression than the one they first drew from one another. As a result, they have sex, but for different reasons. Gabriele explains that this changes nothing; as does Antonietta. (However, later, when her son reminds his mother of all the newspaper clippings she will have from the parade for her album collection, Antonietta's face reveals a look of slight indifference.) Soon after their intimate encounter, Antonietta's family comes back home and Gabriele is arrested. At the end, Antonietta sits near the window and starts reading a book Gabriele has given to her ( The Three Musketeers ). She watches as her lover leaves the complex, escorted by fascist policemen, before turning off the light and retiring to bed: Her husband is waiting there for her in order to beget their seventh child, whom he wants to name Adolfo.



Much of the film's themes revolve around gender roles and the model of masculinity under fascist Italy. Antonietta is the donna madre, a mother figure who meets her feminine responsibilities in the regime by having six children, boasting one more will secure her the government bonus established for large families in 1933. [1] The Fascist regime equates homosexuality with depopulation, and thus, Gabriele is suspected of treason. [2] The bachelor tax of 1926 was a measure against this, and Gabriele has to pay it. [3] While the stay-at-home mother and homosexual neighbor would seem to be an improbable pairing, both are minimized by the regime, and find comfort and some sympathy in each other. [4] At the end of the film, domestic life will continue as usual, but "inner resistance" to Fascism has been awakened. [5]


Italian broadcaster Nunzio Filogamo was an inspiration for the film. Nunzio Filogamo.jpg
Italian broadcaster Nunzio Filogamo was an inspiration for the film.

Maurizio Costanzo, Ruggero Maccari and Ettore Scola wrote the screenplay, after Maccari had learned about an incident in Fascist Italy in which homosexuals were arrested and taken to Sardinia. Particularly, the story of broadcaster Nunzio Filogamo was an inspiration to the story, as Filogamo always had to carry a certificate stating he was not homosexual. [6]

The actors selected for the roles defied type casting, as Marcello Mastroianni was often seen in previous roles as "the prototype of the Italian Latin lover," and Sophia Loren was perceived as a sexy Italian celebrity. [4] Along with Il bell'Antonio and I Don't Want to Talk About It , this is one of Mastroianni's roles critiquing the Italian masculine figure as the incompetent character falling behind an evolving society. [7]

Due to the abundance of news coverage of Hitler's visit to Rome in 1938, the filmmakers had plenty of footage to write a screenplay around. [6] The public service film The Führer's Trip to Italy was especially mined for footage. [5] Faced with a lack of funding from Italian producers, the filmmakers persuaded investors in Canada to support the project. [8] Canafox, a company based in Montreal, co-produced. [9] [10]

A number of unusual cinematic techniques are used in this film. A long take scene introduces Antonietta and her family: the camera enters through the kitchen window and moves into the rooms. [11] Deep focus is utilized in a scene in which the camera is in Antonietta's room with her in the frame, and through a distant window Gabriele can simultaneously be seen moving in his house in the same frame. [12] In post production cinematic color grading was applied to the film to give it muted sepia tones throughout.


The film screened at the Cannes Film Festival in May 1977. [13] It also played in New York City in September 1977. [14]

After a restoration by Cineteca Nazionale di Roma and Surf Film, the film was placed in the Venice Classics section in the 2014 Venice Film Festival. [15] In Region 1, The Criterion Collection released the film on Blu-ray on 13 October 2015. [16]


Critical reception

The film received praise from critics in Italy and throughout Europe on its release. [6] Vincent Canby, writing for The New York Times , appreciated the film's humor and humanity. [14] The New York review states that while the celebrity of Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni would draw audiences in, they were too glamorous to play their characters, and thus, the film did not work. [17]

In 2008, it was featured on the list of the 100 Italian films to be saved, chosen by a jury of film experts for preservation. [18] In 2015, The Hollywood Reporter critic Deborah Young praised it as "one of the most telling films ever made about Italian Fascism," which "suggests a path that cuts through mass-think ideologies, one that anyone can follow with a little human solidarity and courage." [5] Writing for the LGBT-oriented Out , Armond White said the film demonstrated empathy before falling into the mawkish, and Mastroianni was great. [19] Mike D'Angelo of The A.V. Club gave it a B−, saying the film became more powerful through its runtime, although there is less of a story. D'Angelo felt it was positive the sex between the protagonists is not claimed to convert Gabriele to heterosexuality. [16]


The film competed for the Palme d'Or in the 1977 Cannes Film Festival, and while its bid was supported by a few festival co-ordinators, juror Roberto Rossellini successfully lobbied for Padre Padrone instead. [13] At the 2014 Venice Film Festival, it won the award for Best Restored Film. [20]

AwardDate of ceremonyCategoryRecipient(s)ResultRef(s)
Academy Awards 3 April 1978 Best Actor Marcello Mastroianni Nominated [21]
Best Foreign Language Film Ettore Scola Nominated
César Awards 4 February 1978 Best Foreign Film Ettore Scola Won [22]
David di Donatello Awards 1978 Best Director Ettore Scola Won [8] [23]
Best Actress Sophia Loren Won
Golden Globes 28 January 1978 Best Foreign Language Film A Special DayWon [24]
Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama Marcello Mastroianni Nominated
Nastro d'Argento 1978 Best Actress Sophia Loren Won [25]
Best Screenplay Maurizio Costanzo, Ruggero Maccari and Ettore Scola Won
Best Score Armando Trovajoli Won
National Board of Review 19 December 1977 Top Foreign FilmsA Special DayWon [26]


An English-language stage adaptation, titled Working on a Special Day, had its U.S. Premiere in 2013 in an Off-Broadway production from Por Piedad Teatro and The Play Company. Mexican theatre artists Ana Graham and Antonio Vega co-directed and performed the roles of Antonietta and Gabriele, respectively. [27]

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Cinema of Italy</span> Filmmaking in Italy

The cinema of Italy comprises the films made within Italy or by Italian directors. Since its beginning, Italian cinema has influenced film movements worldwide. Italy is one of the birthplaces of art cinema and the stylistic aspect of film has been the most important factor in the history of Italian film. As of 2018, Italian films have won 14 Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language Film as well as 12 Palmes d'Or, one Academy Award for Best Picture and many Golden Lions and Golden Bears.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Venice Film Festival</span> Annual film festival held in Venice, Italy

The Venice Film Festival or Venice International Film Festival is an annual film festival held in Venice, Italy. It is the world's oldest film festival and one of the "Big Five" International film festivals worldwide, which include the Big Three European Film Festivals alongside the Toronto Film Festival in Canada and the Sundance Film Festival in the United States. The Festivals are internationally acclaimed for giving creators the artistic freedom to express themselves through film. In 1951, FIAPF formally accredited the festival.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Sophia Loren</span> Italian actress

Sofia Costanza Brigida Villani Scicolone, known professionally as Sophia Loren, is an Italian actress. She was named by the American Film Institute as one of the greatest female stars of Classical Hollywood cinema. As of 2022, Loren is one of the last surviving major stars from the Golden Age of Hollywood cinema and is the only remaining living person on AFI's list.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Marcello Mastroianni</span> Italian actor

Marcello Vincenzo Domenico Mastroianni was an Italian film actor, regarded as one of his country's most iconic male performers of the 20th century. He played leading roles for many of Italy's top directors in a career spanning 147 films between 1939 and 1997, and garnered many international honors including 2 BAFTA Awards, 2 Best Actor awards at the Venice and Cannes film festivals, 2 Golden Globes, and 3 Academy Award nominations.

<i>Marriage Italian Style</i> 1964 Italian comedy film directed by Vittorio De Sica

Marriage Italian Style is a 1964 Italian film directed by Vittorio De Sica, starring Sophia Loren, Marcello Mastroianni, and Vito Moricone.

<i>La Dolce Vita</i> 1960 Italian comedy-drama film directed by Federico Fellini

La Dolce Vita is a 1960 satirical comedy-drama film directed and co-written by Federico Fellini. The film stars Marcello Mastroianni as Marcello Rubini, a tabloid journalist who, over seven days and nights, journeys through the "sweet life" of Rome in a fruitless search for love and happiness. The screenplay, written by Fellini and three other screenwriters, can be divided into a prologue, seven major episodes interrupted by an intermezzo, and an epilogue, according to the most common interpretation.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Ettore Scola</span> Italian screenwriter and film director (1931–2016)

Ettore Scola was an Italian screenwriter and film director. He received a Golden Globe for Best Foreign Film in 1978 for his film A Special Day and over the course of his film career was nominated for five Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language Film.

<i>Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow</i> 1963 Italian film

Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow is a 1963 comedy anthology film by Italian director Vittorio De Sica. It stars Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni. The film consists of three short stories about couples in different parts of Italy. The film won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film at the 37th Academy Awards.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Stefania Sandrelli</span> Italian actress

Stefania Sandrelli is an Italian actress, famous for her many roles in the commedia all'Italiana, starting from the 1960s. She was 14 years old when she starred in Divorce Italian Style as Angela, the cousin and love interest of Ferdinando, played by Marcello Mastroianni.

<i>The Pizza Triangle</i> 1970 Italian film

The Pizza Triangle is a 1970 Italian commedia all'italiana film directed by Ettore Scola and written by Scola and the famous screenwriter duo of Age & Scarpelli. It stars Marcello Mastroianni, Monica Vitti, Giancarlo Giannini. It was coproduced with Spain and Spanish actors Manuel Zarzo and Juan Diego are dubbed into Italian. The film is available on DVD in Germany, released by WB as Eifersucht auf italienisch, and in Italy.

<i>Sunflower</i> (1970 film) 1970 film by Vittorio De Sica

Sunflower is a 1970 Italian drama film directed by Vittorio De Sica. It was the first western movie to be filmed in the USSR. Some scenes were filmed near Moscow, while others near Poltava, a regional center in Ukraine.

<i>Splendor</i> (1989 film) Italian film

Splendor is a 1989 Italian drama film directed by Ettore Scola.

<i>La terrazza</i> 1980 Italian film

La terrazza is a 1980 Italian drama film directed by Ettore Scola. The all-star cast features the best of Italian Cinema of its era: Marcello Mastroianni, Ugo Tognazzi, Vittorio Gassman, Jean-Louis Trintignant, Serge Reggiani, Stefano Satta Flores, Stefania Sandrelli, Carla Gravina, Ombretta Colli, Milena Vukotic.

The 55th annual Venice International Film Festival was held between 3 and 13 September 1998. The Golden Lion was awarded to Così ridevano by Gianni Amelio.

<i>Lucky to Be a Woman</i> 1956 film

Lucky to Be a Woman is a 1956 Italian comedy film directed by Alessandro Blasetti and starring Sophia Loren, Charles Boyer and Marcello Mastroianni.

Edoardo Ponti is an Italian director. He is the younger son of actress Sophia Loren and producer Carlo Ponti Sr. and the brother of conductor Carlo Ponti Jr.

The Nastro d'Argento is a film award assigned each year, since 1948, by Sindacato Nazionale dei Giornalisti Cinematografici Italiani, the association of Italian film critics.

Jo Champa is an actress, producer and model.

<i>Ragazzo</i> (film) 1934 Italian lost film

Ragazzo is a 1934 Italian lost film directed by Ivo Perilli. The film was censored by the Italian government, and its only known copy was subsequently looted by German soldiers in 1944 and has not resurfaced.


  1. Reich 2004, p. 133.
  2. Reich 2004, pp. 133–134.
  3. Reich 2004, p. 134.
  4. 1 2 Ponzanesi 2014.
  5. 1 2 3 Young, Deborah (15 October 2015). "A Special Day: Small Victories". The Criterion Collection . Retrieved 30 January 2017.
  6. 1 2 3 Chansel 2001, p. 91.
  7. Reich 2008, pp. 49–50.
  8. 1 2 Carotenuto 2009, p. 209.
  9. Hawley, Brendan (May 1981). "Co-productions and Canada". Cinema Canada . p. 54.
  10. Dorland, Michael (October 1983). "Canada and coproductions: A retrospective (1963-1983)". Cinema Canada . p. 19.
  11. Rosa, Miguel (5 January 2012). "A Special Day (1977)". Flickfeast. Retrieved 18 February 2017.
  12. Glasser, Joyce (31 October 2016). "Ettore Scola's seldom-seen masterpiece stars Sophia Loren". Mature Times. Retrieved 18 February 2017.
  13. 1 2 Hoberman, J. (7 April 2016). "Magic Neorealism in World War's Wake". The New York Times . Retrieved 31 January 2017.
  14. 1 2 Canby, Vincent (26 September 1977). "Miss Loren and Mastroianni Light Screen as a Team in 'Special Day'". The New York Times . Retrieved 30 January 2017.
  15. Barraclough, Leo (15 July 2014). "'Guys and Dolls' Joins Venice Classics Line-up". Variety . Retrieved 30 January 2017.
  16. 1 2 D'Angelo, Mike (14 October 2015). "Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni play against type in A Special Day". The A.V. Club . Retrieved 31 January 2017.
  17. Gilbert, Ruth, ed. (31 October 1977). "Movies Around Town". New York . p. 18.
  18. "'Ecco i cento film italiani da salvare' e su tutti vincono Fellini e Visconti". la Repubblica (in Italian). 28 February 2008. Retrieved 23 December 2013.
  19. White, Armond (5 November 2015). "Marcello, Our Sexual Ally". Out . Retrieved 31 January 2017.
  20. Dillard, Clayton (14 October 2015). "A Special Day". Slant Magazine . Retrieved 30 January 2017.
  21. "The 50th Academy Awards (1978) Nominees and Winners". oscars.org. Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences . Retrieved 16 June 2012.
  22. "Palmares 1978 - 3rd Cesar Award Ceremony". Académie des Arts et Techniques du Cinéma. Archived from the original on 2014-10-18. Retrieved 2013-08-04.
  23. "Una giornata particolare". David di Donatello . Retrieved 30 January 2017.
  24. "A Special Day". The Hollywood Foreign Press Association . Retrieved 30 January 2017.
  25. Foster, Gwendolyn Audrey (January 2017). "Two Ordinary People; One Special Day". Senses of Cinema . Retrieved 31 January 2017.
  26. "1977 Award Winners". National Board of Review . Retrieved 30 January 2017.
  27. Saltz, Rachel (24 January 2013). "The Führer's Visit Can't Suppress This Friendship". The New York Times . Retrieved 25 August 2020.