A movie log formerly known as Bookishness / By Charles Matthews

"Dazzled by so many and such marvelous inventions, the people of Macondo ... became indignant over the living images that the prosperous merchant Bruno Crespi projected in the theater with the lion-head ticket windows, for a character who had died and was buried in one film and for whose misfortune tears had been shed would reappear alive and transformed into an Arab in the next one. The audience, who had paid two cents apiece to share the difficulties of the actors, would not tolerate that outlandish fraud and they broke up the seats. The mayor, at the urging of Bruno Crespi, explained in a proclamation that the cinema was a machine of illusions that did not merit the emotional outbursts of the audience. With that discouraging explanation many ... decided not to return to the movies, considering that they already had too many troubles of their own to weep over the acted-out misfortunes of imaginary beings."
--Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude

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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