LOVE IN THE CITY: LOVE FOR MONEY (Carlo Lizzani, 1953)

“The most difficult hours of the night begin. . . .” — narrator

In 1953 Cesare Zavattini produced L’amore in città, which comprises six short films, each by a different filmmaker, in one instance, two filmmakers, one of them Zavattini, who also contributed to the scripts of all but one of the films. The “city” is contemporary Rome.
     Hauntingly scored by Mario Nascimbene, whose music for The Vikings (Richard Fleischer, 1958) has been spinning in my mind since childhood, Carlo Lizzani’s “Amore che si paga” purports to interview prostitutes. In his car, moving at the pace of their walking, the invisible interviewer stalks potential interviewees, or he halts them on a late-night street.
     Immersed in poverty, struggling to survive, these women have lost husbands, fiancés, boyfriends. One of these men has fled with the prostitute’s life-savings—a forward echo of Cabiria’s fate in Fellini’s film three years hence.
     Valli (self-named for Alida Valli?), among the oldest, is called “the Wanderer” by sister-prostitutes, we are told, because she rarely scores a trick; or does she project a phantom image of their own fate? Another, Liliana, was kicked out by her father when she was pregnant without benefit of marriage. She went to Rome in search of work. “Nobody gives you a job,” she explains, “if you have a kid.”
     Tilde is inside a bar drinking coffee after coffee, hoping to find a client. She shows us her shaking hands.
     What one’s lover left her: a receipt for a coffee and two tram tickets. They are all “wanderers.”
     Liliana has rejected suicide as an option—ironically, her father’s morality. Lizzani’s contribution, following a description of the journalistic aims of L’amore in città, comes first; immediately after, Antonioni’s shows us women who, presumably, have actually attempted suicide.

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