Love and Anarchy, 1973

On 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.

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