Tony Mastroianni Review Collection

Ponti's pique -- towering bore

Cleveland Press March 25, 1971

"The Priest's Wife" should be sub-titled "Carlo Ponti's Revenge."

Producer Carlo Ponti and his wife, actress Sophia Loren, have a running battle with the Vatican and the Italian government over the lack (until recently) of divorce laws in Italy.

Disclaimers to the contrary (and the publicity kit for "Priest's Wife" is filled with them) there is a large amount of personal pique in evidence in this movie

WHILE ONE can understand Ponti's agitation it is difficult to forgive him for making a bad movie.

The picture is a poorly blended mixture of farce, satire, and protest. It is staunchly anti-clerical while it focuses on but only weakly tackles several social problems.

Another recent film "Pieces of Dreams," tried to cope with the conflict over priestly celibacy with more sincerity than substance. "The Priest's Wife" manages to have neither. It is basically an old-fashioned farce-comedy in which a woman goes to silly extremes to catch a man she cannot have.

Putting clerical robes on the man however, keeps it bumping into questions and problems not easily solved in farce comedies.

IN THE FILM'S beginning Miss Loren is in her auto, in deadly pursuit of her boy friend (in his auto), a man who neglected to tell her that during the four years they were lovers he also was married.

Having plowed into his car and forced him out she pursues him as though he were a bull in a ring.

It is a good beginning for a farce but like everything else in the movie it continues past the point of either fun or drama.

Later, while swallowing an excess of sleeping pills, she phones a number that, promises a helping hand. She is attracted by the soothing voice on the, other end, feels double-crossed when she discovers later it is a priest (Marcello Mastroianni) but no less determined to have him.

THE REST of the movie follows, her dogged pursuit of the priest. She is half kook, half revolutionary. And her efforts are so relentless that it is a wonder the priest did not commit a different sin -- one of murder.

By the time the movie ends the story has worked itself into a downbeat, cynical conclusion.

Unlike the neo-realism which Italian producers did so well following World War II. this picture has all the glossy look of Hollywood with more concern for Miss Loren's dresses than her dialog.

The undoing of the Pontis in their message movie is that they have made one that no one will take seriously.