Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.5.
Italy, 1960. Zebra Films. Story by Ruggero Maccari, Antonio Pietrangeli, Ettore Scola, Screenplay by Ruggero Maccari, Antonio Pietrangeli, Tullio Pinelli, Ettore Scola. Cinematography by Armando Nannuzzi. Produced by Moris Ergas. Music by Piero Piccioni. Production Design by Luigi Scaccianoce. Costume Design by Danilo Donati. Film Editing by Eraldo Da Roma.
With the passing of laws that close the city’s brothels, four prostitutes decide to pool their savings and buy a restaurant in the country with the possibility of upstairs action for extra cash. The restaurant serves as a good retirement plan for when they’re too old to ply their usual wares, but their past is immediately a problem when they try to get their business off the ground and they have to make a deal with the devil just to begin. The conflicts of the bordello are now played out in kitchens and hallways while legitimate life creeps in to complicate things for all four of them: lead girl Adua (Simone Signoret) cats around with new boyfriend Marcello Mastroianni, Lolita (Sandra Milo) waits for her boyfriend to bring her the money she promised as investment, Marilina (Emmanuelle Riva) brings home the son she has hardly seen since having him and Milly (Gina Rovere) finds love with a kind young man who wants to marry her. It should be a new beginning but there’s a shadow constantly lurking near people who have been “branded like cattle”, as one of them says, and the compromises pile up towards an explosive finale. Superbly acted by a cast who are each better than the next, it’s a story played with vibrancy, passion and plenty of compassion for members of a society that seeks to punish women who survive being used by men, but does so without being pedantic and never for a moment lets them come as pathetic victims. Stylish and sexy, this one is unforgettable.