English Title: Girl with a Suitcase
Original Title: La ragazza con la valigia
Country: Italy, France
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Director: Valerio Zurlini
Piero De Bernardi
Giuseppe Patroni Griffi
Cinematography: Tino Santoni
Gian Maria Volentè
One of Cardinale’s defining work in her early career, GIRL WITH A SUITCASE is director Zurlini’s second feature, an eye-pleasing Black-and-White melodrama centres on the dead-end obsession, which a young rich boy Lorenzo (Perrin) projects on Aida (Cardinale), a penniless nightclub showgirl, who has been dumped by his elder brother Marcello (Pani).
In the movie, Lorenzo is a 16-year-older, having barely arrived puberty, Aida is his first crush, which symbolises the most innocent and pure affection a boy must experience once-in-a-lifetime, propelled by unquenchable impulse, he is willing to do anything for her, and will surely swallow the bitter taste since their relationship can bear no fruition, the age barrier, the class disparity, all appear too formidable for Lorenzo to overcome, and Lorenzo is so good-natured and is too obedient to rebel against the unfair and prejudiced society. When we are young, we might meet the right person in the wrong time, maybe this is what Zurlini wants us to ruminate on.
But more relevant to contemporary audience, the film tends to be preferably reckoned as a strong showcase for Cardinale, arguably the very first one for her to stretch her limit as an actress in spite of her drop-dead sex appeal. Also later it reveals that Aida has been entering motherhood in a fairly early age, which mirrors Cardinale’s own turbulent personal life of being a mother at the age of 19. Her Aida is a sultry damsel-in-distress, but the reality offers her no prince-charming, only leery opportunity seekers who only have designs on her for carnal purpose, in a critical point, she has no alternative other than agreeing to prostitute herself, we should feel empathetic to her, but that feeling is not well-sustained, since Aida is clearly aware of Lorenzo’s blind fixation, and she has no qualms to cash in on it, and being brutally honest about their doomed future. The script dangles sluggishly in the cul-de-sac, to an extent of being over sentimental and patience-testing, the two-hander between Cardinale and Perrin often oscillate between generic theatrics and amateurish spontaneity sans scintillating chemistry, which inadequately sets the tenor in a lukewarm limbo.
On the plus side, the film occasionally coruscates with its dashing panning camera movements, indicates that DP Santoni is a master-hand behind it; also the soundtrack is a winsome collage of classic pieces frequently played with harpsichord, builds up a solemn mood for the harsh reality where money becomes the only opt-out for something intrinsically superior to all the material concerns.