Listen, Let’s Make Love (Scusi, facciamo l’amore?; 1967) begins with a series of scenic images highlighting the beauty and splendor of Milan, Italy accompanied by one of Ennio Morricone’s most sensual scores. As Edda Dell’Orso seductively moans over the opening credits we’re introduced to Italy’s “moral capital” through the eyes of a young man named Lallo (Pierre Clémenti) who has just arrived there to attend his father’s funeral. Inside one of the city’s elegant villas, a group of wealthy guests gather to briefly mourn, celebrate and debate the deceased man’s life while Lallo secretly observes them all. Through subsequent conversations, we learn that his father was a gigolo who died penniless and is being cremated or as one guest suggests “Burned like a witch.” This telling introduction will come back to haunt young Lallo after he decides to follow in his father’s nefarious footsteps.
The film details Lallo’s amorous adventures as he romances his way through Milan’s wealthy jet set. Women and men are equally charmed by his dark good looks and Lallo obviously enjoys the various worldly pleasures that he experiences during his meteoric rise to notoriety. Whether you become as enchanted with this provocative European sex romp as I did depends on one thing; your response to the presence of Pierre Clémenti. The film relies on Clémenti’s unconventional beauty and androgynous sex appeal to carry it through to its weighty conclusion. If you don’t find the actor alluring you might quickly become bored with Listen, Let’s Make Love. But if you’re easily captivated by Clémenti’s edgy eroticism you’re in for a real treat.
I happen to think that Pierre Clémenti is one of France’s most fascinating actors and filmmakers. He was born in 1942 and started performing with an avant-garde theater group in the early ‘60s. In 1963 Clémenti met another talented French actor, Alain Delon, who introduced him to the director Luchino Visconti while they were shooting his epic Italian drama, The Leopard (1963). Visconti had an eye for attractive young men and he was immediately taken with Clémenti’s brooding and unconventional beauty. The director offered the budding actor a role in The Leopard and the rest as they say, is history.
Clémenti’s career took off and he began working with some of Europe’s most celebrated directors including Luis Buñuel, Bernardo Bertolucci, Philippe Garrel, Liliana Cavani and Pier Paolo Pasolini. Clémenti’s reputation as an innovative artist and decadent French radical was confirmed after he was forced to spend 16 months in jail following trumped-up drug possession charges but most believe that his incarceration was due to his radical leftist political leanings.
During Clémenti’s trial and imprisonment one of his defenders was the Italian director Federico Fellini who called the actor “ . . . an engaging person, who inspired friendship and tenderness, who looked for advice . . . a conscientious actor, in summary, an exquisite man.” When he was finally freed from jail friends and associates noticed a distinct change in Clémenti’s personality and approach to living. He continued to act and appeared in a number of interesting films until his unfortunate death in 1999 at the age of 57 but his lengthy imprisonment took a toll on the actor’s free spirit.
Listen, Let’s Make Love offers viewers a glimpse of a younger and more idealistic Clémenti who is still in the process of forging his cinematic identity. The film was directed and written by Vittorio Caprioli, an Italian actor who only made a handful of films. The director also wrote the screenplay in association with his wife, actress Franca Valeri, and the Oscar-nominated screenwriter Enrico Medioli. While watching the movie I couldn’t help but notice a feminine touch in the way that romance and sexual interactions were interpreted, which could be due to Franca Valeri’s involvement.
Listen, Let’s Make Love also features a bevy of beautiful European actresses including Beba Loncar, Edwige Feuillère, Valentina Cortese, Tanya Lopert, Martine Malle and Bond girl Claudine Auger, but as Clémenti’s frustrated character points out midway through the movie, they’re all capable and independent women who are in control of what goes on in the bedroom. The film is also very subtle, some might say conservative, in its approach to adult relationships and the print that I watched contained very little nudity. You’ll have to use your imagination if you want to enjoy Listen, Let’s Make Love.
One of the most noteworthy things about the film is the impressive array of talent behind the camera. Listen, Let’s Make Love is a great looking picture that features some stunning location photography by the Oscar-winning cinematographer Pasqualino De Santis (Romeo and Juliet, 1968, Death in Venice; 1971, The Assassination of Trotsky; 1972 and Three Brothers; 1981). The art direction and costume designs were provided by another Oscar winner; Ferdinando Scarfiotti (The Conformist; 1970, Avanti!; 1972, Last Tango in Paris; 1972, Scarface; 1983, The Last Emperor; 1987 and American Gigolo; 1980), while the set direction was managed by Nedo Azzini. Azzini worked with Scarfiotti on many of the same films as well as Euro-cult favorites like Perversion Story (1969), A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin (1971), The Night Porter (1974 and Lisa and the Devil (1974). This ingenious creative team infused Listen, Let’s Make Love with an abundance of style. Sleek modern apartments filled with Italian designer furniture, chic European automobiles, erotic art displays, luxurious winter wardrobes and stylish costume parties attended by an Italian Batman are just a few of the wonders that await curious viewers.
The film also boasts one of the most experimental and inventive scores ever record by the Oscar-winning composer, Ennio Morricone. Morricone uses an unusual mix of electronic tics and whistles as well as lush soundscapes and lounge rhythms to create a mood of erotic excess and unimagined pleasures. The soundtrack was orchestrated by the talented Italian film composer Bruno Nicolai and the incredible Edda Dell’Orso provides the vocalisms that simulate sexual arousal on the score’s opening track. Her sensual groans can be heard repeatedly at the appropriate (and inappropriate!) times throughout the film.
Listen, Let’s Make Love is a sexy movie with a European sensibility that might confuse or frustrate a lot of potential viewers unless they’re familiar with the work of other erotic filmmakers that came to prominence in the ‘60s such as Roger Vadim and Radley Metzger. But if you’re a fan of thoughtful adult filmmaking I highly recommend giving Listen, Let’s Make Love a look. It isn’t available on DVD or video but you can currently catch it streaming on Netflix. I was incredibly surprised to come across the movie there recently since it’s been rather hard to see until now. As I mentioned back in November, Netflix is becoming a surprisingly great resource for rare and little-seen gems and Listen, Let’s Make Love is one of their most unexpected offerings.
At the moment it’s nearly impossible to find any information about this film online except a few negative reviews that dismissed it. I don’t know if the American version of the film has been edited in any way but I’d love to see it restored and presented in widescreen with subtitles because the version of Listen, Let’s Make Love that’s currently available on Netflix is dubbed. Hopefully a smart DVD company will snatch up the rights to the original Italian version of this unusual cinematic treat and release it on DVD in the near future.
by Kimberly Lindbergs
Note: This article was originally written for Turner Classic Movies on January 27, 2011 and published in the Movie Morlock’s blog.