The Disorder of Things

One hardly hears anything anymore about Italian filmmaker Lina Wertmüller, who once started as Federico Fellini’s assistant on the set of 8 1/2, except that there has been her birthday the other day. But she might be worth to be recalled for some of her extra ordinary films or as the Harvard Film Archive put it in their June series ‘The Disorder of Things’ : .. Wertmüller remains a well-known name, her remarkable films are strangely overlooked and only selectively revisited. And yet, the incredible energy and daring of her most popular works is equally present in lesser-known masterpieces such as All Screwed Up and The Seduction of Mimi, films that are both extremely topical and yet still totally relevant today.

During the 1970s, Lina Wertmüller (b. 1928) emblazoned her name into the pantheon of Italian cinema with a series of intensely polemical, deeply controversial and wonderfully entertaining films. Among the most politically outspoken and iconoclastic members of the second generation of postwar directors – the direct heirs to the neo-realists – Wertmüller was also one of the first woman directors to be internationally recognized and acclaimed. Armed with a keenly satiric and Rabelaisian humor, Wertmüller reinvented the narrative forms and character types of Italian comedy to create one of the rare examples of a radical, politically galvanized cinema that managed to achieve widespread popularity. Indeed, the fierce invectives against social, cultural and historical inequities at the heart of Wertmüller’s mid-1970s masterworks Love and Anarchy, Seven Beauties and Swept Away seemed only to help the films find an appreciative audience, especially in the United States, where they broke box office records for foreign films and even secured Wertmüller an Oscar nomination for Best Director – the very first woman named for this category.

Seven Beauties aka Pasqualino Seven-Beauties
(Pasqualino Settebellezze)

Directed by Lina Wertmüller, Appearing in Person
With Giancarlo Giannini, Shirley Stoler
Italy 1975, 35mm, color, 115 min.
Italian with English subtitles

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Wertmüller’s grotesque masterpiece takes the Chaplinesque tendency in her work – the melding of the comic and tragic – to its furthest and most dangerous extreme. Giancarlo Giannini is unforgettable as the wily Sicilian anti-hero who manages to awaken our deepest sympathies, suspicions and eventually horror as he tries to charm his way out of a series of scandalous situations, culminating notoriously in a Nazi concentration camp. An international smash hit, Seven Beauties offers a bracing and unexpected reply to Adorno’s questioning of the status of post-Auschwitz art and an important corrective to Life is Beautiful, Roberto Benigni’s ridiculously overrated and Oscar-nominated sugarcoating of the Holocaust.
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