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Girl with a Suitcase

Girl with a Suitcase
Koch Vision
1960 / B&W / 1:66 flat letterbox / 109 min. / La Ragazza con la valigia / Street Date August 10, 2004 / 9.98
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

Reviewed by Glenn Erickson

Earlier this year Ivy Films brought out a DVD series called Italian Babes of Yore with good but not exceptional transfers of several star vehicles for Gina Lolobrigida, Sophia Loren, etc. Their Girl with a Suitcase was such a good movie that I grabbed at the opportunity to review this newer Koch Vision version. The film-related text below is much the same as the earlier review. Unfortunately, Koch's copy of the film is not only not better, it's vastly inferior.

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 doesn'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 more likely than not has 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 a lifestyle she doesn't want. Left flat by one man or another, all the beautiful Aida need do is appear in a hotel lobby, and she'll be 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 smoothly 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 kept on a short leash and she's probably in danger of being arrested as a vagrant. With plenty of opportunities for exploitative or trashy scenes, the film chooses to build a relationship instead. Gian Maria Volonté has a good cameo as a would-be one-night stand that Lorenzo opposes, even though he's half as big. 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.

Koch Vision is in danger of trashing their reputation with discs like Girl with a Suitcase. The contrasty image looks like a poor grey-market copy with exteriors so overblown that white objects disappear into the background. The grain is bad as well. It's borderline unwatchable. It's also dubbed into English, a prime detail not mentioned in the package back text that mostly negates its appeal to serious film fans. I'm still looking forward to Koch Vision's La Dolce Vita, promised in September.

Koch Lorber's Girl with a Suitcase is a budget-priced offering but Savant has to recommend Ivy Video's more expensive but enjoyable version, even with its less-attractive cover. This is a very good movie - perhaps a better copy will appear someday.

On a scale of Excellent, Good, Fair, and Poor, Girl with a Suitcase rates:
Movie: Excellent
Video: Poor
Sound: Fair
Supplements: None
Packaging: Keep case
Reviewed: July 29, 2004

DVD Savant Text © Copyright 2007 Glenn Erickson

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