Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Italian rarity: Adua & her friends - hungry for love

Another Italian rarity, one I had not heard of until recently. How could a film featuring Simone Signoret (just after her ROOM AT THE TOP success and Academy Award) and Marcello Mastroianni (just after LA DOLCE VITA) be so unknown?, and also with French actress Emmanuelle Riva (just after HIROSHIMA MON AMOUR) who died last week aged 89. It was released in the UK at the time, titled HUNGRY FOR LOVE, which must have lured in the "dirty mac brigade".

ADUA AND HER FRIENDS (ADUA ET LA CAMPAGNE) When a brothel closes because of new laws, four of the prostitutes decide to go into business running a restaurant. They discover they cannot escape their past.

This story of four prostitutes forced to fend for themselves when a new law closes the bordellos of Rome has the required gritty social realism, but there are scenes of happiness and humor too. They pool their savings to open a trattoria, but find they cannot get a license. A prominent fixer with connections obtains the license for them, on condition that they conduct their old business upstairs and pay him an exorbitant monthly fee. The women are not anxious to turn tricks for a living any longer and find joy in running the restaurant. The women long to settle down -- one (Riva) has a child, another meets a man who loves and wants to marry her. Only one  (Sandra Milo) is tempted to return to her old life. Signoret, the major character here and as wonderful as ever as the worldly-wise Adua - but she too is a fool for a no-good man. Enter Mastroianni as a glib car salesman, hustler and womanizer. While the trattoria is a success, it does not bring in the kind of money demanded by their "patron," which leads to conflict. In this genre, happy endings are rare.
The girls end up exposing their pimp who wants them to resume their old business, using the restaurant as a cover, and they are all exposed in the papers. Society does not give girls like them a second chance, The last scene,  with the girls back on the street in the rain, is suitably right and downbeat. Signoret as Adua though is so enterprising and attractive it is hard to believe her wet, bedragged prosititute would be overlooked for a younger girl.

Nicely directed by Antonio Pietrangeli, I have seen several of his lately, who died early at age 49. This one won Best Italian Film of the Year at Venice in 1961. (See I KNEW HER WELL. below).
1960 was certainly a year for prostitution in the cinema: NEVER ON SUNDAY with happy hooker Melina, BUTTERFIELD 8 and GO NAKED IN THE WORLD with Liz and Gina both taking a tumble at the end (at least Liz got that Oscar), THE WORLD OF SUZIE WONG, GIRL OF THE NIGHT, and Shirley Jones winning an Oscar in ELMER GANTRY - now there's ADUA AND HER FRIENDS!
It was of course that strange era of strip clubs and clip joints, as exemplified by EXPRESSO  BONGO, TOO HOT TO HANDLE, PASSPORT TO SHAME, THE WORLD TEN TIMES OVER, BITTER HARVEST, THE BEAUTY JUNGLE etc, and glamour girls like Diana Dors and Belinda Lee (SHE WALKS BY NIGHT, 1959) before the new permissiveness of the dawning Swinging Sixties. Bardot in Paris was mining a similar seam with steamy items like LOVE IS MY PROFESSION and LA VERITE.


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  2. Like you I have never heard of this but I will seek it out. Yes, 1960 and that period was a biggie for prostitutes of all nations. My favourite was NEVER ON SUNDAY which was the movie that made me go to Greece while the British films you mention certainly painted a seedy, if enticing, view of Soho.

  3. Unfortunately I see it is only available on a region 1 disc. Makes me think of buying a multi-region player more than ever.