Listen, Let’s Make Love (1967) is an Italian film set in Milan: the image (on Netflix, of all places!) was grainy, the sound poor, and everyone is dubbed, even though some of them seem to be speaking their lines in English. Some call it a satire, some an erotic comedy or drama, and some call it Eurotrash. I’ll go for the satire and erotic drama, although there is no kissing, no nudity, and certainly no sex. (Perhaps it was filmed, then censored – the Italian laws changed at the end of the 1960s, making possible a slew of sex comedies and dramas with the likes of Laura Antonelli). I’m still not quite sure why I watched it.
The film opens with shots of Milan and some heavy female breathing in the musical score. There is a funeral, and a countess laments that she cannot attend, though the man who is being buried was her lover for twenty years, because all of Milan would talk. Lallo (Pierre Clementi – an actor who inspires strong opinions) comes from Naples to attend his father’s burial and take up his profession, that of a gigolo to the social élite – mostly women, but now and then men. His father left him nothing but his profession, and a room full of nice clothes.
Lallo proceeds to have a series of liaisons, including one with his aunt, before her husband flees with her to Venezuela to avoid prosecution for cooking his books. In a story with Naples, Milan, financial élite, affairs with aunts, and an oblique mention of Stendhal in the dialog, The Charterhouse of Parma must come to mind, and maybe even Before the Revolution. The northern women like to make fun of Lallo’s Neopolitan upbringing, but that doesn’t stop them going to bed with him and showering him with gifts.
Things just sort of happen in the film. It’s hard to fathom the characters, but then, most of them are shallow socialites. The characterizations are not deep, and Lallo’s inner life, if he has one, is a mystery. He slides into his niche as available male quite easily. At times, he shows a nervy sarcasm: “I am determined to sell myself to the lowest bidder,” and when he gets a killer look from a woman he dumped for a better client he says, “She gave me a look that mussed my hair!” He has an early conversation with a friend of his father’s who gives him good advice on how to conduct himself in this business – seeing more of him would have added something to the film. He only reappears at the end when, losing patience, Lallo kicks his current woman in the ass, sending her sprawling in the snow at a costume party where she’s dressed as a nun: he appears in a full batman costume and expresses his exasperation with Lallo.
Lallo has fallen in love, truly, so he says. He wants to marry the daughter of the countess. She lies to him, saying that the young woman is his half-sister. He dresses in full regalia to somberly lend his presence to her wedding to another bourgeois. A jarring note of reality hits you like a brick in the head when the countess speaks the facts of life to her maid and accomplice in deception: These young people…They can dress as they like, think as they like, have political ideas, and do what they want in private. But, at least in Milan, money marries money!
The film has a lush soundtrack that veers from sounding like Muzak to commenting on the imagery very well. The design is a tour of high-end 60s style and fashion, sometimes with an impressive and disturbing look to them.