A Movie Log

A blog formerly known as Bookishness

By Charles Matthews

Monday, November 9, 2015

Love and Anarchy (Lina Wertmüller, 1973)

Lina Wertmüller was a big deal 40 years ago, when I saw Swept Away (1974) and Seven Beauties (1975) in the theater. The latter earned her the distinction as the first woman ever nominated for the best director Oscar. (She lost to John G. Avildsen for Rocky, and the less said about that the better.) I remember thinking that her films were wound a little too tight, and seeing Love and Anarchy rather confirms my opinion. The performances are ratcheted up at times to near-hysteria, and things that could be said are shouted. But even when Wertmüller's cast is milking it for all it's worth, it's clear that she has a point of view and the means to express it, especially with the two actors on whom she frequently called during her directorial heyday. As Tunin, the "bumpkin" who has taken on the task of assassinating Mussolini, Giancarlo Giannini plays a complete dramatic arc, from the wide-eyed, almost comatose naïf who finds himself lodged in a Roman brothel and then goes through stages of passion, fear, disgust, commitment, and a final martyrdom. Mariangela Melato as the prostitute Salomè doesn't have such a grand arc to traverse, but somehow she manages to let traces of humanity show through the flamboyant façade she has adopted. Eros Pagni as the odious Fascist Spatoletti and Lia Polito as Tripolina, the winsome prostitute who wins Tunin's heart, are also good, though their roles verge a bit on caricature. The handsome cinematography is by Giuseppe Rotunno, who at one point expresses the divisions in Tunin's character by a tricky, brilliant shot that shows Giannini and his reflections in two different mirrors.

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