Previously offered in the United States in only a butchered and truly ridiculous edit, the Director's Cut of To Be Twenty is a revelation more as a piece of film history than a film itself. Although Gloria Guida and Lilli Carati give strong performances previously ruined by English dubbing and heavy re-cutting, the movie's ending is problematic. Director Fernando Di Leo has a point worth making, but the rest of his movie isn't entirely consistent with it, haphazardly switching gears from fun sex romp to cold-blooded criticism of sexual politics.
Guida is Lia, and Carati is Tina, two twenty-somethings who meet on a beach and introduce themselves as "young, beautiful, and pissed off!" They hitchhike across Italy and settle in a commune, where they're first asked to offer sex instead of rent, and when that doesn't work out, to go door to door selling encyclopedias. Honestly, there's not much of a traditional narrative here; the girls basically want to stay at the commune and have a good time, and various complications keep preventing things from going smoothly.
Di Leo wants his movie to be some sort of feminist document, with two leads who are sexually liberated and free to do whatever they want to, but even if the characters claim to be that way (Carati's character spends almost the whole movie angrily demanding sex from people), the movie itself is still exploiting them, with several sex scenes and a generous amount of full-frontal nudity from both actresses. In one scene, the duo try out the whole sex-as-rent situation with two guys the commune leader brings in, and the guys hastily take off the moment they've been satisfied. Lia and Tina are so free that the only obvious answer is to have sex with each other, to accomplish what the men couldn't. Totally progressive, right?
Still, Di Leo does manage to capture both of the actors' youthful energy, and there are some fun, playful scenes where Lia and Tina shoplift, or their conversations with the other commune dwellers, like their weird, meditating roommate (Leopoldo Mastelloni). Both performers get to exercise their dramatic chops as well, in a sequence where a filmmaker has come to the commune to make a documentary about women's lib. Tina is enraged about not getting laid often enough, as she is throughout the movie, but Lia responds with a much different story, delivered with effective dramatic simplicity.
Eventually a police officer randomly appears to break up the commune and demand that Lia and Tina return home. The movie's notorious finale does pack a certain kind of punch, and there's no way to claim that Di Leo took the easy way out. Still, the conclusion doesn't quite gel with the rest of the movie, which is frequently carefree and exploitative, and the moment relies as much on coincidence as it does following through on elements (not threads) suggested by the rest of the picture. To Be Twenty is either too much or not enough: an interesting curiosity that tries to have its cake and eat it too.
The U.S. Theatrical Version
Although the director's cut is far from perfect, the U.S. Theatrical cut isn't even a movie, taking Di Leo's picture and shuffling it like a deck of cards. The movie's ending is turned into a beginning using sound effects (!). The new ending isn't even an ending, subbing in a random transitional scene that provides no closure to a film that has no beginning, middle, or end. Perhaps most ridiculously, our twenty-something, rebellious heroines are turned into job hunters, looking to find respectable employment instead of running all over the country, having sexually liberated fun. It's an alteration of tone and intent on the level of the "Love Conquers All" cut of Brazil, and modern viewers may have a hard time believing it's not a practical joke.
A general-audience-friendly slipcover covers up the film's original, mildly NSFW painted poster artwork (which is much better than the random still on the slip). The cheap plastic case has a disc on each side of the case instead of a flap tray, with a four-page booklet sitting loose in the middle (the case has no clasps to hold the booklet in place).
The Video and Audio
To Be Twenty is a tale of two transfers: Disc 1 contains the 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation of the director's cut, while Disc 2 contains the US Theatrical edit (same specs). The difference is like night and day. The director's cut is a few solid notches above public domain stuff: plenty of scratches and print damage, slightly faded colors, very little fine detail. It looks like a movie from 1978, and not one that's been kept in great shape, either. On the other hand, the theatrical cut could've been shot yesterday: vivid colors, excellent detail, and very little noticeable damage or defects. It's almost too bad Raro didn't splice in and redub footage from the US transfer into the director's cut, but maybe they felt the extreme differences would've been more distracting than pleasing.
Sound is Italian and English Mono, respectively, and the Italian track is superior. It's not perfect, but dialogue comes through clearly, and the music isn't too muffled or flattened -- the only complaint is a section near the ending that seems to be wildly out of sync (the issue corrects itself eventually). Comparatively, the English dub sounds like someone's holding a pillow over it, occasionally rendering it hard to understand. Although my player pretended the English version included English subtitles, nothing appeared on screen. The subs for the Italian were free of any noticeable spelling or grammatical errors.
The one major extra is on Disc 1: the documentary "Twenty Years For a Massacre" (29:47), featuring interviews with Di Leo, several cast members (sadly, not Guida or Carati), and a producer's son. It's a mildly interesting documentary, but no more enlightening than the feature film, with Di Leo's explanations for the film coming off as a little flimsy, and the actor's stories bearing little real insight other than the usual platitudes of what it was like to work with everyone. Worse, incredibly long stretches of the film are included here for some reason, probably taking up a third or more of the extra's runtime.
Disc 2 houses a photo gallery, director's biography/filmography, and the film's original screenplay, and both discs have thrilling DVD credits. No theatrical trailer for To Be Twenty is included.
Although To Be Twenty is an imperfect film, the DVD set presents a great look at how drastically editing can change a movie, and fans of Di Leo who have been waiting for this release for years shouldn't be too disappointed by the meager extras. For film scholars and the director's devotees (or fans of Guida or Carati), it's recommended; everyone else, adjust your expectations accordingly.