18 February 2002 | zetes
Omnibus film in the Neorealist vein
That was the intent, anyway. Cesare Zavattini produced the film and brought together five directors to make short films about love. The results are all good, but none of them great. They all have problems. To add to this problem, the version that I saw had English narration in the prologue and in the inter-segments, and sometimes in the short films themselves. I don't know if anything was edited out.
Part 1 (d. Dino Risi): This segment is a charming little film about the people in a dance hall. It has no real story. Instead, we see couples connect, people alone, and couples break up. It's very nice.
Part 2 (d. Michelangelo Antonioni): Of course, I saw the film for the Antonioni and Fellini segments. They're two of my very favorite filmmakers. Antonioni's is quite interesting. It is the most documentary-like segment. I don't know if it's true, but the narration claims that they gathered together a group of people who had attempted suicide over failed relationships. Two women tell their stories in an interview format. It's quite good.
Part 3 (d. Federico Fellini): At first, this looks like it will be the best of the film. The opening sequence, with the main character wandering through the narrow hallways of a Roman apartment building looking for a matrimonial service (the equivalent of a dating service). A young child tells him that he will lead him to that room, and as they proceed, other children show up and follow them. That's a very mystical scene, but what follows is very disappointing. The man claims that he's looking for a wife for his friend, who happens to be a werewolf. This segment is the one that hints that there might have been some editing in the version that I watched. This man is introduced to the girl, they have a conversation in a field, and then the man, I guess, tells her that she is too good to do so. The result is nonsensical. There is absolutely no payoff. Actually, the weak ending reminds me a lot of the segment Fellini wrote for Roberto Rosselini's Paisa.
Part 4 (d. Mesallini Zavattini): I assume Zavattini is related to Cesare, probably his brother or son. Anyhow, this segment is most in-line with the neorealistic movement, which was dying by the time this film was made. A Sicilian woman went to Rome to find maid work. Her first employer impregnates her and then fires her. Now she's stuck with a young boy but no money whatsoever. She tries to scam a nanny into taking care of the kid, but he is eventually given back to her. There is a beautiful scene where the mother changes her sons diaper on the edge of a fountain. This scene's real-time realism is reminiscent of the maid's morning duties in Vittorio de Sica's Umberto D., made shortly after this film and written by Cesare Zavattini. The climactic scene is truly heartbreaking, but the end is horribly anticlimactic. This film really shouldn't have had a happy ending. Neorealism and happy endings really don't mix.
Part 5 (d. Alberto Lattuada): Lattuada is most famous for co-directing with Fellini on his first film, Variety Lights. His segment in Love in the City is perhaps the best of the film. It has no story at all. Instead, it is a non-narrative compilation of the reactions of men when they see beautiful woman. The editing reminded me of Leni Riefenstahl's Olympia. It's quite musical. In fact, the music of this segment is really good. The film ends on a very poetic moment.
All in all, you should see the film if you're a fan of Italian cinema, or just of Antonioni or Fellini. 7/10.