The Tiger and the Pussycat (1967, Dino Risi)

The Tiger and the Pussycat tells the sad tale of forty-five year-old businessman, Vittorio Gassman. He’s just become a grandfather. His college-age son wants to have long hair. All of his wife’s friends are abandoned women; their husbands have run off with younger women. Gassman is dissatisfied. Upon finding his son attempting suicide over a girl (Ann-Margret), Gassman lets the girl seduce him. Him Gassman, not the son.

Hilarity ensues.

Or not.

Mostly it’s just Gassman being a different kind of jerk to people. Initially, he’s a successful jerk–The Tiger–but once Ann-Margret shows up, he’s putty.

The Tiger and the Pussycat runs just over one hundred minutes. It’s never particularly good, never promising. Even though Alessandro D’Eva’s photography is fine, spectacular on occasion, and Marcello Malvestito’s editing is nice, director Risi is so boring there’s never anything to get excited about. Except maybe in comparing how Risi’s male gaze on either tightly or scantily clad Ann-Margret has less enthusiasm than his male gaze on Eleanor Parker (as Gassman’s suffering wife) and her similarly aged friends. At one point, Ann-Margret’s mother has to console Gassman and the film had the closest flirtation with chemistry ever.

But no. Because while Gassman is a caricature, he’s at least an active one. He has some unfortunate slapstick attempts, but otherwise it’s a perfectly fine performance. He’s trapped by the lame script and lame composition, just like the viewer.

Ann-Margret’s bad. Parker’s okay; her part’s terrible, but she’s okay. Fiorenzo Fiorentini is cute as Gassman’s sidekick (the film barely has a supporting cast–Gassman’s the whole show). He carried on with a young woman and ruined his life. The script’s constantly setting up comical examples of why Gassman ought to get serious. That aforementioned “hilarity” ensues after he doesn’t acknowledge any of them.

The film gets a little bit worse at the end, which is sort of too bad because if it had just not gone on and on and on and on in the second half, it might have at least been tolerable. Instead, it’s Risi wasting his cast, Gassman giving a decent enough performance will suffocated by a bad script and a disinterested director, Parker not even having enough material to turn her part into a role, and Ann-Margret being annoying. Yes, the script fails her too–and Risi’s direction of her–but she’s still not good in Tiger and the Pussycat. She’s just not.



Directed by Dino Risi; screenplay by John O. Douglas, Agnore Incrocci, and Furio Scarpelli, based on a story by Risi, Incrocci, and Scarpelli; director of photography, Alessandro D’Eva; edited by Marcello Malvestito; music by Fred Bongusto; production designer, Luciano Ricceri; produced by Mario Cecchi Gori; released by Titanus.

Starring Vittorio Gassman (Francesco Vincenzini), Ann-Margret (Carolina), Eleanor Parker (Esperia Vincenzini), Fiorenzo Fiorentini (Tazio), Antonella Steni (Pinella), and Luigi Vannucchi (Company president).

Girl with a Suitcase (1961, Valerio Zurlini)

Girl with a Suitcase plays a little like The Nights of Cabiria. Watching Suitcase, one can’t help but feel like the filmmakers were quite familiar with Cabiria. Cabiria, of course, is from a certain period of Fellini and Suitcase feels a little like that Fellini, only the diet version. The film does have a lot of nice things about it–Valerio Zurlini is a fantastic director and he has wonderful composition in this film. Also, for a film with lots of loud music, it’s really quiet. Zurlini lets his actors act and doesn’t help them much in the technical department, which means the actors have to be really good… and, for the most part, they are. Claudia Cardinale is fine, but her character is something of an intentional enigma, so she’s really not the best standard for the film–she’s also not the protagonist. The protagonist is the sixteen year old boy who’s got the crush on her, which is where Girl with a Suitcase differs from other depressing Italian films (it’s like Nights of Cabiria with kids, maybe).

The problem with this story–the boy-about-to-be-a-man and the older woman with secrets he loves–is the lack of a successful conclusion to the story. There are probably films with this story made twice a year from every country in the world (at least one with a good-sized film industry). Girl with a Suitcase goes a different route for most of the film though, not giving the kid anything to do but spend time with Cardinale. Oh sure, he’s got the absent family, but it’s not an issue for a couple reasons. First, because he’s too busy with Cardinale. Second, because the damn thing switches protagonists for the third act, concentrating on her. Those diet Cabiria moments come about because of the switch, but they also serve to make Cardinale a sympathetic character. Only to crap on her in a boring way.

Somehow, the film’s two hours and boring but really not long enough. It stops without ending. The kid, played Jacques Perrin, is okay. Sometimes he does good, sometimes he doesn’t. It’s like Zurlini wasn’t giving him enough direction in some scenes. Another problem with the inevitable conclusion is the age difference. While Perrin is supposed to be sixteen, he was actually twenty and Cardinale was twenty-three. They look close in age and it really affects the reading of certain scenes.

I’ve only seen one other Zurlini film, The Desert of the Tartars, and I was expecting a lot more from Suitcase. The first hour is pretty good though and, overall, it’s not wasted two hours (especially given the amazing sound design).



Directed by Valerio Zurlini; written by Leo Benvenuti, Piero De Bernardi, Enrico Medioli, Giuseppe Patroni Griffi and Zurlini; director of photography, Tino Santoni; edited by Mario Serandrei; production design, Flavio Mogherini; produced by Maurizio Lodi Fe’; released by Titanus.

Starring Claudia Cardinale (Aida), Jacques Perrin (Lorenzo), Corrado Pani (Marcello), Luciana Angelillo (Aunt Marta), Carlo Hinterman (Piero), Riccardo Garrone (Romolo), Renato Baldini (Francia) and Romolo Valli (Father Introna).

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