The Girl With the Suitcase | Chicago Reader

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The subject of a weeklong retrospective at Facets Multimedia Center, Italian director Valerio Zurlini (1926-1982) is lesser known outside his homeland than the neorealists of the 1940s and the activist filmmakers of the 1960s. But between 1950 and 1976 he created a distinguished body of work dealing with thwarted love, class differences, postwar hedonism, and the inevitability of death. With this 1960 coming-of-age drama he helped turn Claudia Cardinale (The Leopard, Once Upon a Time in the West) into a bawdy, voluptuous icon: as Aida, an impressionable lounge singer who's been seduced and abandoned, she's a free spirit who responds to kindness but also stands her ground, and while she's flattered by the attentions of an aristocratic teenager (Jacques Perrin), she comes to realize the futility of their relationship. Zurlini adroitly highlights the disparity between them through his painterly mise-en-scene (the boy's mansion versus the hotel rooms where they meet, all crisply photographed by Tino Santoni) and the evocative jazz and classical score (a bang-up job by Mario Nascimbene). The story is rife with hypocrisy, betrayal, and desperation, driving home Zurlini's existential despair. 116 min.

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