« Coffee Break | Main | Coffee Break »

March 27, 2018

The Teenage Prostitution Racket

teen prostitution racket 1.jpg

Storie di Vita et Malavita
Carlo Lizzani - 1975
Raro Video BD Region A

The original Italian title translates as "Stories of Life and Crime". The English language title suggests something more exploitive. Carlo Lizzani has made a history of making films derived from true stories and current events, "ripped from the headlines" as the phrase goes. In this case, any difference between an exploitation film and a film about exploitation sometimes gets difficult to distinguish, with any arguments further muddied by the fact that supplemental footage was filmed to satisfy the grindhouse market.

The film was inspired by articles in the Milanese newspaper, Espresso. Lizzani and co-writer Mino Giarda created six fictionalized stories about young women who became prostitutes as a result of different circumstances. There is a recurring bit with an old woman hitchhiking near a highway, who is revealed to be pimping a thirteen year old girl described as almost a virgin. Lizzani began his career as a documentary filmmaker as well as writer during the time that neorealism defined Italian cinema, collaborating with Roberto Rossellini and Alberto Lattuada, among others. In the supplemental interview from 2005, Lizzani still thought of himself and this film in connection with neorealism.

The depiction of sex and the generous amounts of nudity eventually give way to the more serious issues that Lizzani addresses here. The most obvious theme is of women as commodities, with the prostitutes subject to being of monetary value, being available for buying and selling. Even those women in the film who are not prostitutes are seen engaged as sources of cheap labor. Virtually everyone is chasing after money, and those who are not are instead pursuing conspicuous consumption. There is a kind of back-handed nobility given to the old lady who pimps the girl (her grand-daughter?) when it is revealed that the money earned from quick blow jobs is used to feed a family living in dire poverty, in what appears to be a partially destroyed, abandoned housing outside Milan.

Only a small handful of Carlo Lizzani's films are available for English language viewers at this time. For those unfamiliar with the filmmaker, this would not be my suggested introduction. While several of his films can be described as being true crime, Lizzani also made a couple of excellent westerns, with Requiescat featuring Pier Paolo Pasolini as a priest. The supplemental documentary that comes with Racket includes Lizzani, Giarda, and cinematographer Lamberto Caimi, well worth the extra half hour viewing. Curiously, the version of the film here is in English only, with some of the dubbed voices sounding like caricatures of Italian-Americans.

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at March 27, 2018 10:28 AM