Perhaps better known today for her role as the Princess in Blake Edward's “The Pink Panther,” Claudia Cardinale had already worked with many of Europe's most esteemed directors by 1963, including Luchino Visconti, Frederico Fellini, and Abel Gance.
Possessing a beauty and mystique not too dissimilar from Monica Bellucci, Cardinale's career at least offered more variety than Bellucci's regular string of ‘abused woman' roles. “Girl With A Suitcase,” however, does share some significant parallels with “Malena;” in particular, both films dealt with the obsession of a young boy who's compelled to protect his ideal woman.
Whereas Bellucci's Malena Scordia was shadowed by a juvenile guardian angel she barely meets, Cardinale's twentysomething Aida maintains a wavering friendship with her naïve protector, Lorenzo (played by prolific French actor Jacques Perrin); closer in age to Aida, he's also a lad who possesses an enviable access to wealth and cultural clout.
Malena is also more socially prominent, mature, and sophisticated; Aida is still a poor youth in search of wayward dreams, stumbling between lecherous, selfish, experienced men, and returning to the protective company of her teenage admirer. Lacking the ebullient goodness that resides in the youthful reminisces of writer/director Frederico Fellini, with “Girl with a Suitcase,” director Valerio Zurlini slyly builds the mounting emotional tension between a burgeoning woman, and a sensitive teenager, who quickly realizes his place in the adult social world is still far, far away.
For the DVD release of “Girl With A Suitcase,” Ivy Films have found an excellent print that showcases the superb cinematography of Tino Santoni, with good English (non-removable) subtitles that follow much of the film's minimalist-styled dialogue. Zurlini heavily relies on sequences that demand strong reactions from his actors, and Santoni's dusk and nighttime cinematography contain good blacks and balanced greys. The mono soundtrack is clean, and Mario Nascimbene's delicate theme adds just the right compassion to the story.
As with other DVDs in their Saturday Matinee DVD series, Ivy has included a vintage black & white music short (which can be played separately, or as a lead-in to the feature film), featuring the Rome Symphony Orchestra performing Mendlessohn's “Saltarello Ballet” (with intercut ballet footage), and Rossini's “La Gazza Ladra Symphony.” The musical short is followed by the cartoon “Land Boom,” a vintage black & white brevity that seems to be a silent film subsequently retrofitted with periodic sound effects and music score.
This lost treasure is available separately, or as part of a 3-disc set, titled “Italian Babes of Yore,” which includes "Girl with a Suitcase," “Wife For A Night” and “Too Bad She's Bad.”
Note: Avoid the KOCH release of Girl with a Suitcase at all costs.
© 2004 Mark R. Hasan