Grubby, sordid, and exploitative--but also an honest treatment of its subject
I don't know if teenage prostitution was really that big of problem in Italy and Europe in the 1970's, but they sure made a lot of movies about it. Teen call girls rings were an important subplot in a lot of Italian gialli and police thrillers like "What Have They Done to Your Daughters?", "The Maniac Responsible", and "Suspected Death of a Minor". The subject was also occasionally treated in a more light-hearted and titillating fashion in the notorious German "schulmadchen-report" films. This movie,however, is more of a straightforward neo-realist/sleaze melodrama. It's not as well made as your average giallo or a police thriller, and it's not nearly as titillating (or as fun) as a "schulmachen-report" film. It should receive some kudos though for treating subject matter that is grubby, sordid, and depressing in real life in a manner that really is grubby, sordid, and depressing. Not to say that there isn't some attempt at exploitation and titillation--this is an Italian movie after all.
This movie is made up of a series of interwoven stories. A "mother" hitchhikes with her underage "daughter" and offers truckers and cabbies the girl's sexual services while the latter flashes her wares. In the longest and most touching story,a naive sixteen-year-old orphan comes to Milan to work in her cousin's sweatshop and is seduced into prostitution by a smooth-talking pimp who promises to marry her. In another, more preposterous story another teen is actually a virgin from a respectable family, but after she is tricked into taking off her clothes and photographed at a swinging party, she is blackmailed into becoming a pro, "pleasing" her male clients in ways that don't technically compromise her virginity (only the Italians would come up with something like this). Another girl takes up prostitution to rebel against her father, who she finds out is himself patronizing teen hookers her age. Another girl is a man-hating lesbian--this story is either about how Italian society's prejudice toward women and gays results in alienation and negative lifestyle choices, or it is just a sorry excuse for some hot teenage lesbian action--I'm not exactly sure. There's a very sad ending though.
But, for better and worse, this is NOT a very erotic movie. It certainly doesn't glamorize teen prostitutes or their brutal pimps and perverted clients. There's plenty of nudity, and even some hardcore inserts, but the good thing about Italian sleaze (unlike say French "art films") is that the real actresses were always over eighteen at least. Still, these particular actresses definitely LOOK pretty young (especially compared to voluptuous Italian beauties like Gloria Guida who unconvincingly played "underage" streetwalkers in the comedies like "Blue Jeans"),and this really adds to the aura of sleaze. Nevertheless, I think this movie is far more likely to evoke depression or disgust than anything else. It is definitely too exploitative and graphic to ever make it as a primetime TV movie-of-the-week and it's not exactly fun to watch, but it is an honest treatment of its subject matter.
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