Thursday, November 24, 2011

It is brutal TO BE TWENTY


Italian director Fernando Di Leo has managed a small resurgence as of late thanks to the fine work of Raro Home Video's DVD's special editions. His large body of Italian crime thrillers have finally started to find their way into the hands of cult films fans who are discovering the craftsmanship of this little known (on this side of the pond) director. TO BE TWENTY is largely considered to be his most controversial and confrontational piece of work. A huge failure in Italy when it was released to the point that it was pulled from release and re-edited, it is a film that challenged audiences and critics alike.

The film follows two twenty year old girls Tina (Lilli Carati) the brunette angry one, and Lia (Gloria Guida) the more angelic looking, quieter and calmer of the pair, as they go on various adventures over a week or so on holiday in the big city. Seems like a simple enough story, ripe for comedy or coming of age, until one realizes that Di Leo is much more interested in telling a story about how society of the late seventies, a time ripe with the burgeoning feminist movement, civil rights activism and other liberal activities, is simply not as free as it often purports to be. The two lead girls are the symbols of freedom as they rage against the old world society, the establishment and even their peers who seem to be using the various movements they supposedly believe it just to make a buck or lay around and get high. They dance through various adventures trying to find a place to fit in, and listen to the philosophy of a mime who explains about trying to find transcendence, the commune leader who is using the young people, and the sexually aggressive pseudo hippie who is actually an informant for the brutal cops. In one telling scene they go door to door selling encyclopedias to make money and are almost molested by a lesbian and a professor, but end up together finding a lonely old man they end up seducing on their own to ease his own loneliness as their good deed for the day. Another telling moment has a documentary filmmaker crash the commune and they spill their guts to his camera explaining their sad childhoods. With Tina raging about her bourgeoisie upbringing and how her parents make her sick, and Lia telling a sad story of growing up in an orphanage and later with a foster care at which she was molested by her caregiver. (In the extras director Di Leo explains these asides where actually the actresses ad libbing their own life experiences to what they thought was a separate documentary film crew, not fully aware it was ending up in the final film). 

Eventually the cops raid the commune and send the girls packing when they realize they have nothing to do with the actual day to day activities there, but they could potentially “become terrorists” due to being some what intelligent. On their way home to their home town they stop at a small diner full of blue collar workers and businessmen whose libidos their very presence happen to inflame leading to a shocking, devastating ending.

When the film was released the two female stars (who are stunning and gorgeous) were very popular in Italy so audiences were not prepared to see them in such a shocking and upsetting film. Once the word was out, people stayed away and the producers pulled it, cut some troubling moments in the center of the movie and vastly changed the last five or so minutes changing the entire meaning of the film. But that version flopped too. 

It is easy to see why. Not that it is a bad film. Far from it. But TO BE TWENTY is a vastly unpleasant one. It comes from that time in 70's cinema when movies were asking hard questions, and were very unafraid to just up and fucking brain the audience to get the point across. If that meant doing really terrible things to the young, beautiful, much loved leads, then so be it. But with this film it is much more, because TO BE TWENTY takes young, beautiful, vibrant and sassy freedom itself out into the woods and savages it beyond recognition. This is nihilism laid out to die alone with businessmen in three piece suits and their cronies walking out to fuck everyone else for another day. TO BE TWENTY is where freedom goes to die.

The DVD has both versions of the film in this 2 disc set. I only watched the directors cut. The second disc that is the Director's cut has some weird anomalies as it slips out of sync two times really bad. The sound stays that way for close to 30 seconds or more both times. There is also some pretty severe print damage along the way. But otherwise it is ok looking, certainly a huge step up from the smeary VHS dubs I have been used to looking at over the years.

Highly recommended for those who want to be challenged by their cinema. All other may want to be careful.

Review © Andrew Copp

1 comment:

  1. The downbeat, shocking ending is still very potent today -- it's almost as if CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST intruded on a Crown International tits and ass flick!