To Be Twenty (1978)

  • Year: 1978
  • Released: 14 Jul 1978
  • Country: Italy
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  • Available in: 720p,
  • Language: Italian
  • MPA Rating: Unrated
  • Genre: Comedy, Crime, Drama
  • Runtime: 94 min
  • Writer: Fernando Di Leo
  • Director: Fernando Di Leo
  • Cast: Gloria Guida, Lilli Carati, Ray Lovelock
  • Keywords: rape, italy, commune, exploitation, sexual violence, gang,

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To Be Twenty Movie Reviews

Born To Be Wild

Some time in the mid-70s, out-of-luck director Fernando di Leo had a million dollar idea: Why not do a remake of one of the top grossing blockbusters of 1969, with a slightly altered tagline: “Two chicks went looking for Italia and couldn’t find it anywhere.” And since those chicks would hitchhike across the country to join a hippie community, they didn’t even need those pricey motorbikes! The Captain America role went to Euro teen star blonde Gloria Guida, the Billy part to the lesser-known Lilli Carati, a downright stunning brunette literally acting out every single word of her dialogue: „I’m young, hot, and p*ssed off. Does anybody here f*ck?” A radically pessimistic statement from the bleak opening beach scene to the unforeseeable (and utterly disgusting) climax, Avere vent’anni bites off more than di Leo could chew: His counterculture swan song about two female libertines who inescapably will go to the dogs never finds a rhythm, a loose, sloppy concoction of scenes that don’t blend, a programmatic reading from Valerie Solanas’s SCUM manifesto („A pip-squeak with dysfunctional femininity that despises women: That is man.”) remaining fairly more than a nod to the feminist zeitgeist in Fernando’s T&A exploitation circus. Two stars for the boisterous performance of the lead actresses, reciprocating between vulnerability, sexual aggression, and pure, breathless joie de vivre, especially in the dance scene on the piazza; another one for Ray Lovelock’s fine interpretation of a disenchanted druggie, and one and a half for the super catchy theme song. Ah, and as for Signorina Carati: Eat your heart out, Dennis Hopper.

Powerful, tragic tale of naive youth

Applying a simplistic, hypocritical morality to this sleazy tale, the filmmaker (Fernando di Leo) gets to have it both ways. His camera captures every lurid detail of multiple sex scenes and takes every opportunity to savor the fine flesh of the tasty leads (Gloria Guida and Lilli Carati). He then condemns the women for being “sluts” and brutally reprimands them for their behavior.

“To Be Twenty” is a highly watchable story about two twenty-year-old free spirits whose youth and naivety bring on their destruction. Ninety per cent of the film graphically depicts the girls in a series of wild and frivolous adventures. Staples of 70’s cinema such as drugs, politics, the generation gap, communal living and free sex are thrown into a mix to produce an enjoyable cinematic cocktail that captures the ennui of the period.

The film’s surprising last stanza sounds a mean-spirited warning to women who freely advertise their sexuality without any intention of providing it. It is a nihilistic, barbaric, angry scene of human carnage that echoes the darkest aspects of “Last House on the Left”, “Straw Dogs” and “I Spit On Your Grave”.

A recurring song is used to potent effect over the end credits and the lead characters are brought to vivid life by the talented Guida and Carati.


Rather strange, but mostly likable.

Fernando Di Leo is a director that gets a lot of criticism; and most of it is unfair in my opinion as he’s directed a lot of the best Italian crime movies of the seventies, as well as some other curious gems. To Be Twenty is something of a departure from his crime films and doesn’t really fit into any of the main genre headings that were popular in seventies Italy; although at a stretch it could be described as a cross between a sex comedy and an exploitation flick. The film is slightly misguided and that is its main problem as on the one hand it’s light and breezy, and on the other hand it actually tries to make some points…with mixed results. The plot focuses on two young girls who are both young, hot and angry that meet on a beach. They set off to hitch a lift together and so begins an odyssey as the pair try to create an existence for themselves in a world overridden with sex, perverts and drugs. They manage to find a place to stay but not everything goes to plan and before long, the girls find themselves living a nightmare.

The tone of the movie is one of the best things about it as the director excellently captures the hippy-style care free atmosphere through the two young girls. The film stars Gloria Guida and Lilli Carati; both of whom serve the movie well in the looks department, especially when their clothes come off, but don’t exactly set the film on fire with great acting. However, luckily this is a film that doesn’t need great acting to succeed. The plot flows well and the two girls provide likable characters that make the film fun to watch. It’s not exactly plot heavy and the film basically follows the girls on their unplanned journey right up until we come to the tragic ending. The ending is actually rather strange as it doesn’t fit the tone of the movie and actually looks more like something straight out of a roughie film. However, it is rather powerful and won’t be forgotten in a hurry; and the reason for that is mostly down to the way we are made to like the characters throughout the film. Overall, this film probably won’t be for everyone’s taste; but if you like this sort of stuff, you could do worse.