Marcello Mastroianni received his second Oscar nomination for portraying Gabriele in A Special Day.
A Special Day is an interesting Italian film set during the fascist reign of Mussolini. A fascinating and simple tale of an anti-fascist homosexual, and a lonely housewife from a Fascist household.
Marcello Mastroianni first appears as a rather mysterious neighbor Gabriele to the lonely housewife Antonietta(Sophia Loren). She initially comes to her house to gather her families pet bird who had flown away from its cage. Mastroianni as with his performance in Divorce Italian Style, his creation character is instantly apparent as he as on screen and has not said even a single word. He shows a man who is unassuming at first but shows that the man clearly is hiding something, not only his full personality, but also he clearly hiding a pain of sorts that is fully apparent in Mastroianni faces but somehow never is obvious which is rather spectacular. His first scene with Loren is very strong, since he tries to be welcoming and charming, he tries to interest her in a book of his, and show her a dance step, but Mastroianni always suggests a very haunting element in his character that is very effective.
The character is slowly revealed carefully, by Mastroianni. I particularly thought when he talks on the phone immediately when Loren first leaves is just about outstanding. He shows Gabriele certainly has far more troubles than he originally lets on, his nervousness, combined with sadness and anger is absolutely brilliantly shown by Mastroianni. He mixes all these emotions incredibly well, and he does not just show in his voice, or his face, but he shows this throughout his body. Mastroianni fully utilizes his entire being to suggest Gabriele troubles, but he never seems to be forcing his performance at all, and this makes his performance all the more effecting.
He later again meets Antoneitta with the in an attempt to have some sort of friendship before his eventual fate. He and Loren really create at fascinating relationship between these two rather different in some ways but also similar people. Mastroianni really builds his character well as he talks to her, because he shows the man to trying to have life, well his life will shortly be changed very much. He tries to make the woman happy with his little jokes here, and there with his fairly gentle charm. But he is unable to fully hide his sadness, and Mastroianni always keeps this even when he is smiling. He also slowly shows his very angry and sad feelings toward the nature of Italy and its fascism. Also toward the housewife's support of the current regime. He never lets an overtly but subtly shows his pains over the matter.
He though does finally breaks open completely, in a moment of absolute brilliance on Mastroianni's part, as he slowly shows his inability to repress himself and he conveys Gabriele's problems which become harder and harder to hide. Though what really breaks him wide open is when Antoneitta tries to advance sexually toward him but she is surprised by his lack of emotion from her advances. Her partial disgust from when she finally realizes that he is homosexual causes Gabriele finally to make an outburst. He finally shows his utter hatred loud and clear of being mistreated and hated by people. Mastroianni really hits the right nerve in this scene and reached it perfectly along his earlier suggestions of these feelings. It is incredibly powerful and striking scene which is all due to Mastroianni.
Later after his outburst they sort of make up in a way, as Gabriele quietly opens up about his troubles, and she opens up about hers. He shows a truly authentic man who has had to lie, and poignantly opens up to her in a very moving scene. She and He than in a very different scene have sex, in one of the most essential sex scenes in a movie. She sort of forces herself on him, he reacts in a way of a pained face, and inability to really respond properly, yet he still tries to respond to her, knowing that it seems to be something that he needs even though he cannot exactly respond. This scene is not at all exploitative and possibly that is because Mastroianni is so absolutely stunning in his emotional power all without saying anything. In end the two become acquainted and develop a relationship with true poignancy. The script certainly helps their final moments to be so powerful, as does Loren, but I believe Mastroianni is the one who is absolutely essential for this with his incredible performance.