LOVE IN THE CITY: ITALIANS TURN THEIR HEADS (Alberto Lattuada, 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.
     Buoyant, effervescent, dazzlingly edited, the concluding segment, brilliantly directed by Alberto Lattuada, albeit in a banal vein, “Gli italiani si voltano” purports to use a hidden camera to record male reactions to women walking down sunny streets. I don’t know; much of this seems damn well staged to me! Whatever it is, it’s wonderful to watch. An image of reinvigoration—a woman drinks water outdoors—is followed by a montage of young, smiling women emerging from the shadows of a building to take charge of their gait: symbolically, after segments reflecting facets of Rome’s lingering postwar stress, a rush of relief—nearly a decade later, Rome’s reconfirmation of the familiar business of life. In retrospect, the previous segment, “Storia di Caterina,” leads into this perfectly.
     Lattuada withholds his guys until he has extensively displayed gals—perhaps to make us, at least the male “us,” their captivated though non-leering extension. At first, he cuts between women and reactive men; eventually, we see both in the same frame. (A succession of men twist their heads to get another look at a woman they have passed—a shot lifted from Hollywood’s 1948 Easter Parade.) While Lattuada emphasizes ankles and busts, it is clear that many men are principally engaged by another feature of the women they are behind.
     Zavattini’s voice announces that this omnibus film is the first installment of a cinematic “magazine,” Lo Spettatore, but the financial failure of L’amore in città ended the project.
     Alas!

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