Also known as Listen, Let’s Make Love, this peek at the uber-rich and horny of Milan society is both quaint and amusing. As the movie begins, a young Neapolitan man named Lallo (Pierre Clementi) arrives in Milan to visit his father’s longtime mistress on the day of his father’s funeral. The twist is that it wasn’t the mistress who was kept, it’s that Lallo’s father, Baby, was a professional gigolo.
Having inherited nothing from his dad but some clothes so old they’ve come back into style, good looks, and a way with the ladies (and men, when necessary), Lallo sets out very matter-of-factly and naturally to be just like Baby. The way in which he plies his trade and moves from one rich, married, bored client to another is so nonchalant it took me until almost the end to decide whether the film was a drama, a farce, or a satire. I decided it was an unusually subtle farce, but only to the detached viewer; to the characters living through it, it’s a drama, all the time, world without end, amen.
I also think the entire plot of the film turns on the simple concept of situational irony, from the women who want to use Lallo but end up falling in love, to the aging gigolo mentor (Massimo Girotti) who warns Lallo against the thanklessness of the lifestyle at the beginning of the film and then turns up toward the end to reprimand him for not taking enough crap from a mistress. Incidentally, the second exchange occurs while the elder man is dressed in a Batman costume. To be fair, they were at a costume party, but it’s easily the funniest moment of the film.
The irony hammer really crashes down near the end of the film with one line spoken by a countess’s maid who has just helped to break up a socially unacceptable relationship between Lallo and an unmarried girl with whom he has actually fallen in love: “the rich always marry the rich.” It’s hard for me, as an American, to imagine the mindset of wanting to uphold the system that ensures you will always be a servant. And it’s possible the line wouldn’t be ironic to proponents of the class system.
I will say that I enjoyed the end of the film because Lallo didn’t really have to pay for all of his debauchery. That is not to say that I believe people should be able to use other people with impunity, but I kept waiting for him to meet a sudden and horrible death that would change the whole tone of the movie. I was glad that didn’t happen because I don’t care for morality plays.
I also liked the sly humor of the often catty dialogue (“she gave me a look that messed up my hair”), and the scene in which Lallo accidentally runs into his mother (Valentina Cortese) in a train station in the middle of the night in Austria made me want to get out a ouija board and page Dr. Freud.
If I watched it again and paused it a bunch of times to think, or if I was an intellectual, I’d probably be able to tell you what each woman on Lallo’s journey through the film represented. But then again, maybe not. Lallo is no Candide. He’s not even a Candy. The best thing about his story is possibly the fact that it means nothing, at least to him. It’s just a slice of a strange yet somehow, in context, ordinary life, sure to be fun for anyone who enjoys beautiful people and vicarious decadence. Let it wash over you like a champagne bath.
You can see Listen, Let’s Make Love on Netflix; I understand that it’s a cut version (quelle surprise) but also that the film has been rare for some time and therefore the fact that it is available at all to watch is a plus. In the meantime, here’s a sample of the Ennio Morricone score. Enjoy.