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Girl with a Suitcase

Girl with a Suitcase
Ivy Video
1960 / B&W / 1:66 flat letterbox / 111 min. / La Ragazza con la valigia / Street Date February 10, 2004 / 24.95
Starring Claudia Cardinale, Jacques Perrin, Romolo Valli, Gian Maria Volonté
Cinematography Tino Santoni
Production Designer Flavio Mogherini
Film Editor Mario Serandrei
Original Music Mario Nascimbene
Written by Leo Benvenuti, Piero De Bernardi, Enrico Medioli, Giuseppe Patroni Griffi and Valerio Zurlini
Directed by Valerio Zurlini

Also available with Wife for a Night and Too Bad She's Bad in a three-disc boxed set called Italian Babes of Yore for 49.95

Reviewed by Glenn Erickson

Claudia Cardinale's star shines bright in this early-career starring vehicle that brings out her special qualities. Co-starring with actor ("Z") and producer (Winged Migration) Jacques Perrin, she burns up the screen in this provocative but dignified Italian drama from director Valerio Zurlini (Black Jesus).


Singer Aida (Claudia Cardinale) is callously ditched by Marcello Mainardi, who instructs his younger brother Lorenzo (Jacques Perrin) to brush her off when she comes by their parent's large house. Encouraged by his priest-tutor (Romolo Valli) to be virtuous, the sincere 16 year-old helps the beautiful young woman, spending his mother's money and eventually getting Aida a hotel room on his mother's tab. Aida is pestered by old boyfriends and easily picked up by businessmen in the hotel, which causes Lorenzo terrible feelings of pain. Aida too is saddened - Lorenzo is simply too young, but his gentlemanly valor is impossible not to love.

I've had my fill of the average "coming of age" movie about young boys initiated into the world of sex by hot young women. It didn't work in Summer of '42 any better than it works in the trashy subgenre that began with Jacqueline Bisset in The First Time in 1969. Beautiful young models just don't normally seek out adolescent boys to deflower, at least not in my experience.

Girl With a Briefcase is a serious film about good people in an impossible situation. Young Lorenzo is smitten by Aida, but is just too young ... she'd probably be arrested if they were caught together. She's a decent girl having a rough time getting along in a cabaret world where too many men expect too much for a meal and some empty promises. Aida's been ditched by one such young man who has more likely than not slept with her. He's such a cad, he introduced himself with a false name in preparation for leaving her flat. The other men in her life are older boyfriends with harsh demands or new candidates with big ideas and fast tongues.

She's already on a slippery slope to an lifestyle she doesn't want. Left flat by one man or another, all Aida has to do is appear in a hotel lobby and she's invited to dinner.

The relationship of Aida and Lorenzo is beautifully handled. Both have our sympathy. Under the circumstances, Lorenzo's petty conniving to find her some money doesn't seem too unreasonable. He's acutely aware of his responsibility to do the right thing, which makes him into a prince in her eyes. They barely share a kiss and an embrace, and we share their desperate hopelessness. It's all handled beautifully in the intelligent screenplay.

The show is a visual treat as we watch Claudia Cardinale bloom on-screen. She's certainly one of the most arresting actresses of the 60s, and there are moments here where she just takes over the picture with a smile or a look. The atmosphere of train stations, hotels and other ordinary life at Lorenzo's beach town is effortlessly conveyed. It's a small but superior picture.

Director Zurlini handles the surprises well. Lorenzo's opulent house doesn't afford him any more freedom than Aida has - he's on a short leash and she's probably in danger of being arrested as a vagrant. There are plenty of opportunities for exploitative or trashy scenes, and the film chooses to build a relationship instead. Gian Maria Volonté has a good cameo as a would-be one-night stand that Lorenzo stands up against, even though he's twice as big as the kid. A surprisingly good scene involves Aida and Lorenzo's tutor, a priest played by Romolo Valli (Duck, You Sucker).

Zurlini and his writers also avoid the easy out of placing blame on adults or society in general. Aida and Lorenzo take the consequences of their actions. They may suffer, but they're individuals, not victims.

Ivy Video's DVD of Girl with a Suitcase is a good presentation, with an acceptable transfer of an element that most of the time is of very good quality. The B&W image is sharp and well defined, but several times in the film the picture jumps a bit, probably because of repaired perforations. The element used is almost pristine but for these few isolated flaws. The film is in Italian, with burned-in original film subtitles.

This 'Saturday Matinee' DVD has a pair of extras like the other two in the series. The Rome Symphony Orchestra performs Mendelssohn's Saltarello Ballet (with a ballet performed on screen, and Rossini's La Gazza Ladra Symphony is a straight concert. The cartoon this time is a silent Farmer Afalfa item with Krazy Kat. At least I think it's Krazy Kat, as there are no credits except for an aftermarket addition reading Land Boom. It's an unremarkable silent cartoon with a needle-drop accompaniment, but is an excellent demonstration of a problem with many silent films. On silent negatives, the aperture extended across the full width of the frame. The soundtrack later took away a piece on the left. But when the film was printed in the sound era to accomodate an audio track, instead of shrinking the image the left extreme of the image has just been cropped away. There's an acre of free space on the right but characters often disappear to the left, and symmetrical images like the frequent iris mattes are way to the left as well.

On a scale of Excellent, Good, Fair, and Poor, Girl with a Suitcase rates:
Movie: Excellent
Video: Excellent
Sound: Excellent
Supplements: Concert and Ballet short subject; silent cartoon
Packaging: Keep case
Reviewed: February 24, 2004

DVD Savant Text © Copyright 2007 Glenn Erickson

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