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A Woman is a Woman: De Sica Does MacLaine in Enjoyable Omnibus “Woman Times Seven” (1967) | Blu-ray Review

Long gone are the days when a vignette styled filmed would be crafted for the purposes of showcasing a talented performer, at least to the auteur spangled heights which matched many such items out of Italy. Anna Magnani was the muse of Rossellini’s Amore (1948) and then Silvana Mangano was the scintillating subject spearheading 1967’s The Witches (in which she would be directed by regular collaborators like Visconti and Pasolini but also De Sica, Mauro Bolognini and Franco Rossi).

The very same year, Vittorio De Sica would command all seven segments of Woman Times Seven, each featuring the talented Shirley MacLaine as an American in Paris. At times odd, touching, comical and poignant, it’s a stellar homage to the Oscar winner, here nominated for a Golden Globe for her work in a vehicle scripted by Cesare Zavattini (scribe of Bicycle Thieves and Umberto D.). Oscillating between brazen and coquettish, MacLaine is assisted by a starry supporting cast who enhance the enticing wonders of the oft-uneven omnibus experience.

Love, adultery and consumerism are the themes nestled in the seven tales all featuring Shirley MacLaine as a woman involved with various men and oft-troubled relationships. Whether she’s a widow scooped up by an overzealous suitor or an object of desire and flirtation, MacLaine proves along the way, a woman is a woman.

Despite having directed several classic comedies (including Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow and Marriage Italian Style), De Sica is perhaps best remembered for his stark, often sentimental leaning melodramas (Bicycle Thieves; Umberto D.). Woman Times Seven is a broad departure from either of these perspectives, and a much lighter hearted English language offering than his Indiscretion of an American Wife (aka Terminal Station), infamously spliced by David O. Selznick.

As with any vignette-styled film, some segments don’t end up being memorable, and here specifically the bookended chapters, featuring an amorous Peter Sellers in the former and a trio of underused notables (Anita Ekberg, Michael Caine and Philippe Noiret) in the latter, fall into this category. But between these, we find MacLaine dabbling in potential prostitution (amongst the likes of a young Judith Magre, recently appearing as Huppert’s mother in Elle, 2016) and a pair of extremes, from her poignant naivete in trying to adopt a new persona to win back the affections of an emotionally estranged husband (Lex Barker) to a murderous socialite who plants a car bomb in her competition’s (Adrienne Corri) vehicle prior to a gala event. Add to this a suicide inclined lover of Alan Arkin and a painfully staged three-way with Vittorio Gassman and De Sica has padded a phenomenal number of supporting players to utilized to showcase MacLaine.

Film Rating: ★★★½/☆☆☆☆☆
Disc Rating: ★★★/☆☆☆☆☆

Los Angeles based Nicholas Bell is IONCINEMA.com's Chief Film Critic and covers film festivals such as Sundance, Berlin, Cannes and TIFF. He is part of the critic groups on Rotten Tomatoes, The Los Angeles Film Critics Association (LAFCA), FIPRESCI, the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS) and GALECA. His top 3 for 2023: The Beast (Bonello) Poor Things (Lanthimos), Master Gardener (Schrader). He was a jury member at the 2019 Cleveland International Film Festival.

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