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Film d'amore e d'anarchia (ovvero stamattina alle 10 in via dei Fiori nella nota casa di tolleranza), 1973
[Film of Love and Anarchy (or At Ten o'clock This Morning in Via dei Fiori in the Infamous House of Prostitution)/Love and Anarchy]

Melato/GianniniOn the idyllic countryside of Italy in the 1930s, a humble and mild mannered peasant named Tonino (Giancarlo Giannini) witnesses the brutal execution of his eccentric but affable elder relative, Michael Sgaravento, for undisclosed political agitation by the carabinieri. Entrusted earlier by Sgaravento to hide a mysterious suitcase on his behalf, Tonino decides to uphold the dotty old man's ideology and validate his trust by assuming Sgaravento's seemingly idle declaration of embarking on a mission to assassinate Benito Mussolini. With Sgaravento's suitcase in hand, Tonino arrives in Rome at a high-priced bordello under the pretense of visiting his cousin - a seasoned and highly sought after call girl named Salomè (Mariangela Melato) whose popularity with the Fascists makes her an ideal operative for the anarchists. An opportunity soon presents itself when the brash and arrogant Spatoletti (Eros Pagni), Mussolini's head of security for the secret service, calls to arrange a Sunday rendezvous with Salomè. Reasoning that she cannot leave her naive and impressionable cousin at a house of ill repute, Salomè convinces Spatoletti to bring Tonino and a fellow prostitute called Tripolina (Lina Polito) to the remote villa. Tonino and Tripolina's mutual attraction is immediately palpable, and the two become inseparable. However, as the appointed hour of destiny with Mussolini approaches, the hapless and lovestruck Tonino soon finds himself struggling to retain his focus and determination to carry out Sgaravento's final mission.

Lina Wertmüller creates an audacious, darkly comic, and incisive portrait of humanity, compassion, and loyalty in Love and Anarchy. Using bold, aggressive colors and disorienting, acute camera angles that exaggerate scale, Wertmüller sets an absurd and farcical tone in order to chronicle the hypocrisy, self-defeating, and perverted idealism equally inherent in the political repression of the Fascists and the partisan resistance struggle: the bizarre position of Sgaravento's body after the assassination; the carnivalesque exhibition of prostitutes; Spatoletti's disproportionate framing against Tonino. Through the depiction of characters as grotesque caricatures, Wertmüller further reflects the dehumanization and objectification of the underprivileged inherent in the possession of power and authority. Inevitably, as the epilogue reveals the words of famed anarchist, Errico Malatesta's Machiavellian rationalization for the destructive acts committed under the provocative tenets of creating political agitation, what emerges is a vicious cycle of violence, exploitation, despair, and repression.

© Acquarello 2002. All rights reserved.

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Pasqualino Settebellezze, 1976
[Pasqualino Seven Beauties/Seven Beauties]


GianniniIn wartime Europe, two haggard army deserters attempt to navigate in the darkness through a disorienting forest after escaping from a military train bound for Stalingrad only to witness a mass civilian execution by German soldiers in an open field. Retreating into the woods, Francesco (Piero Di Iorio) expresses anger and regret over his acquiescence to the wave of military aggression ushered by Mussolini and the Fascists that resulted in such senseless deaths. Pasqualino (Giancarlo Giannini), in turn, reveals that he has committed murder before the war and attempts to rationalize his actions - recalling the events that brought him to the battlefront - as he sought to save his sister, Concettina's (Elena Fiore) reputation after she is driven into prostitution by her insincere and disreputable lover, Totonno (Mario Conti) with empty promises of marriage. Alternating between recollections of his life before the war as a self-absorbed, but honor-bound gangster, and present-day circumstances as a desperate and unscrupulous concentration camp prisoner-of-war, Pasqualino's life emerges as a morally reprehensible culmination of impulsive bravado, irresponsible alliances, and instinctual survival.

Seven Beauties is a bold, irreverent, and densely layered satire on a national culture of machismo, self-absorption, and justified human cruelty that fostered a climate of militarism and enabling complicity, resulting in the tragedy of World War II. By presenting Pasqualino's civilian and enlisted plight as a consequence of the incongruent interaction between vanity and cowardice, Lina Wertmüller presents an incisive correlation between masculine aggression and virility: the angled shot of Don Raffaele (Enzo Vitale) and Pasqualino's circuitous discussion of creative ways to dispose of a corpse underneath a large-scale sculpture of a male lower torso; Pasqualino's sexual assault of an institutionalized patient that led to his conscription; his absurd attempts to seduce a stern and physically imposing German officer (Shirley Stoler) in order to curry favor. The film concludes with a quintessential Wertmüller shot of Pasqualino's repeated image from a three-sided, compartmented set of mirrors (similar to Salomè's room in
Love and Anarchy): a figurative reflection of the irredeemable price of human survival - and a searing self-assessment of a nation's tragic legacy and culpability - under a repressive, dehumanized, and brutal regime.

© Acquarello 2002. All rights reserved.

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