LOVE IN THE CITY: CATERINA’S STORY (Francesco Maselli, Cesare Zavattini, 1953)

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.
     Co-directed by Francesco Maselli and Cesare Zavattini, “Storia di Caterina” opens on a newspaper page and closes with a series of them following the legal odyssey of a woman who abandoned her toddler and, racked, returned to reclaim him. Journalistic voiceover here is purely objective, as was not the case with the Fellini segment immediately preceding this segment. The voiceover informs us that the woman we see is re-enacting what actually happened to her. Not surprisingly, this segment most plainly evidences neorealismo.
     Caterina Rigogllosa has come from Palermo, with Carlo, her son, to find work. When she was sent home by authorities, her parents rejected her, and she has illegally returned to Rome. Her back-and-forth ambivalence regarding Carlo thus matches how she has been treated on both bureaucratic and cosmic levels. Her future, though, is okay; Maselli and Zavattini’s film portrays a benign officialdom that actually helps people.
     This segment contributes the best filmmaking to L’amore in città, including wonderful long-shots: Caterina in a field on the outskirts of Rome; returning to the Maraini Institute to reclaim the child she abandoned, Caterina is seen by us through the prison-like opening gate as she advances to enter; children at running play.
     I wish I could believe the outcome of Caterina’s turning herself in to the police, as a nun tells her to do as the “only possible” recourse available. What strikes me as likely fantasy—whitewashing propaganda—chafes against the film’s claims to journalistic objectivity.

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