In a film packed with superb performances, a dazzling Sophia Loren and a sparkling Franca Valeri lead the way
Around them, simply the best of the best that Italian cinema has to offer
First things first, Il segno di Venere is a film tailor-made for fantastic actors and performances. Cesare Zavattini’s idea was to contrast the fortunes of two female protagonists (he originally imagined two sisters) of different degrees of attractiveness, and the two lead roles couldn’t have been more perfectly cast: the dazzling Sophia Loren as the beautiful Agnese, and the sparkling Franca Valeri as her less attractive cousin, in one of her best roles, which she had already performed on stage. Behind a somewhat tough exterior, her Cesira is a sweet, shrewd and romantically lovesick dreamer. They are surrounded by a group of first-rate actors, a sign of how at the time Titanus was the only production company capable of bringing together the best of the best of Italian cinema on the same set: the wretched Sordi, ready for prison; the hack poet De Sica, posing as a gentleman; the puerile Peppino De Filippo, and handsome fireman, Raf Vallone. Great credit must be given to Dino Risi for having combined so much talent with such great precision and narrative fluidity.
Cousins Agnese and Cesira live together. The former is a beauty who attracts men like flies, the latter cannot rely on the same natural aesthetic charms but cultivates a burning desire to meet Mr Right. However, one by one, her possible suitors reveal themselves to be inadequate for a variety of reasons. Including the handsome Ignazio, who is stolen by her cousin.