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GIRL WITH A SUITCASE (LA RAGAZZA CON LA VALIGIA) (director/writer: Valerio Zurlini; screenwriters: Leo Benvenuti/Piero De Bernardi/Enrico Medioli/Giuseppe Patroni-Griffi/Giuseppe Bennati/based on a story by Mr. Zurlini; cinematographer: Tino Santoni; editor: Mario Serandrei; music: Mario Nascimbene; cast: Claudia Cardinale (Aida), Jacques Perrin (Lorenzo), Corrado Pani (Marcello), Luciana Angelico (Aunt Martha), Gian Maria Volonté (Piero), Riccardo Garrone (Romolo), Romolo Valli (Father Introna); Runtime: 109; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Maurizio Lodi-Fe; Koch Vision; 1961-Italy/France-dubbed in English)
It has Claudia Cardinale at her charming best.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Valerio Zurlini (“Black Jesus”/”Violent Summer”/”Family Diary”), a once celebrated but now forgotten filmmaker with no distinctive style, who made onlyeight feature films over a 20-year career,superbly directs this appealing classic Italian b/w film that slipped under the radar and is rarely seen at present–but deserves to be rediscovered. It has Claudia Cardinale at her charming best, following her breakthrough role in Rocco and his Brothers (1960). It’s based on a story by Zurlini and is written byLeo Benvenuti, Piero De Bernardi, Enrico Medioli, Giuseppe Patroni-Griffi and Giuseppe Bennati.

Aida (Claudia Cardinale) is a sultry young nightclub singer who is having a stormy affair with Piero (Gian Maria Volonté), the leader of a small-time dance band in Riccione. Marcello (Corrado Pani), a wealthy playboy, seduces the gold-digger to quit her job, as he lures her to run away with him by promising through his connections he can secure for her a film career. The cad surprisingly abandons her near Parma–leaving her on the road with only her suitcase, thus ending their two-week relationship. The irate and not-too-swift Aida somehow gets Marcello’s home address in Parma, where he lives with his Aunt Martha (Luciana Angelico), his absentee businessman father, and innocent younger 16-year-old brother Lorenzo (Jacques Perrin). Marcello orders his younger brother to get rid of Aida when she shows up at his doorsteps, but Lorenzo becomes smitten with the older woman and anoints himself as her protector–feeling sorry for her plight caused by his older brother’s bad behavior and because he’s attracted to Aida and wants to assert his manhood. Lorenzo thereby gets money from his aunt by lying to her and registers Aida in a fancy hotel, and also buys her expensive dresses so she can fit into the ritzy surroundings. The older woman realizes the teenager also wants to get in her pants like the older guys, but she’s at least smart enough to realize the affair has no chance of working in the real world and tries to discourage it. When the family priest (Romolo Valli) gets wind of the relationship, he speaks with Aida to tell her the truth about what is happening and he convinces her to return to her hometown. But the headstrong Lorenzo follows her there to win her over, until he too realizes this match is not meant to be. But he feels sorry for Aida’s troubles and leaves her a large sum of money before he returns to Parma.

The illicit love story is tenderly played out against the background of the cold real world of showbiz and the kid’s cold bourgeois setting, by a sympathetic Cardinale and an endearing Perrin–who both make you care about what happens to them. Zurlini keeps away for the most part the sentimentality and allows a poignant coming-of-age tale to prosper in a tasteful way.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”