Wednesday, December 28, 2011

To Be Twenty (1978, Fernando Di Leo)

Released this year by Raro Video for the first time in the U.S., is To Be Twenty (Avere vent'anni) from the master of Italian Crime films Fernando Di Leo.  Though nothing like his classic polizioteschi films included in Raro's Fernando Di Leo Crime Collection, To Be Twenty is no less interesting (and shocking).  Being a fan of Di Leo, I had to see this one especially after hearing about its controversial ending (which luckily wasn't spoiled before watching it).
To Be Twenty stars Lilli Carati as the loud mouthed, promiscuous Tina and the beautiful Gloria Guida as the more soft spoken Lia.  After being left behind at a hippy beach party, the two decide to hitchhike to a notorious commune where they can live for free and have all the free love they want.  When they get there, they realize that the owner Nazariota (Vittorio Caprioli) is nothing more than a scam artist and the girls are forced into prostitution if they want to stay (something they don't seem to mind).  Their "Young, Hot and Pissed-Off" ways eventually catch up with them in a shocking ending that has to be seen to be believed.
Contrary to what I've read, the ending, though definitely shocking, is less unexpected than I had originally thought it would be.  Without giving anything away, the girls are actually pretty annoying and unlikeable and to see their selfish and careless ways catch up with them is almost like a sick sort of justice (though perhaps a little harsher than what they deserve).  From the synopsis I had read, I expected the girls to be more innocent in their wild ways, which turned out to be not so true.  One thing I really liked about the film is how the Lia and Tina's personalities are revealed as (or become) the exact opposite of our initial impressions.  We find Tina to be all bark and no bite while Lia's quiet personality turns out to be more carefree.  I have read that Di Leo's intention with the film is to show the power of feminism and free love, but for me the end result was the exact opposite - that free love and selfish actions will end in disaster.  The supporting actors in the film all helped flesh out the story with one of my favorites, Ray Lovelock, playing the burnt out druggie Rico and Giorgio Bracardi as the no-nonsense commissario who busts the commune.  Raro's 2 disc presentation of To Be Twenty is another example of why we are so lucky to have them finally releasing films in the United States.  We are graced with the director's cut of the film (featuring the notorious ending) as well as the theatrical cut, which drastically changes the film into an incoherent mess.  Unfortunately though the theatrical cut's presentation is much better with a beautiful transfer while the director's cut is a little more worn, though still very watchable.  Despite this, the extended cut is definitely the one to watch regardless of condition.  Also included is a photo gallery, director filmography/biography and the film's screenplay.  The best feature though is a half hour documentary on the film featuring interviews with Di Leo and some of the film's cast and crew.  Definitely a good companion to the film.  Overall, the film isn't perfect but it is definitely a fascinating example of an exploitation film with a message (despite how obscured the message is) and is a must have for fan's of Fernando Di Leo.
RATING:  9/10
To Be Twenty is available directy from Raro Video HERE

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