Tag: Lina Wertmüller

June 25, 2017 /
Editor’s Notes: The classic imagination of the Western is decidedly masculine, with an iconography pretty much dominated by the male presence. Yet, women directors made and are still making Westerns. As we celebrate the classics and the lesser-knowns of the genre in our repertory series A Fistful of Spaghetti Westerns, we also wanna talk about women directors and their Westerns.

Text by Juan Ramirez

The Belle Starr Story (1968) dir. Lina Wertmüller

The only Spaghetti Western ever directed by a woman (who would later go on to become the first woman ever nominated for the Best Director Oscar), The Belle Starr Story is a sordid revision of the life of the infamous outlaw. More preoccupied with her usual battles of the sexes and themes of memory and trauma than with historical accuracy, Wertmüller casts fashion model Elsa Martinelli as a glamorous sharpshooter with winged eyeliner and black leather suits.

June 2, 2017 / / Main Slate Archive

Italian filmmaker Lina Wertmüller’s Swept Away is at once outrageous, weird and guiltily seductive. As the poster suggests we’re in for passionate love and sex on a beach. The affair’s unlikely pair of counterparts are a rich socialite, Raffaella (Mariangela Melato), and a communist deckhand, Gennarino (Giancarlo Giannini). The pointedly ironic mismatch, namely the rich girl vs. poor boy tale, seems at first to be the basic premise of the film. But soon enough, Wertmüller’s unapologetic boldness in handling her material makes the film truly stand out. The film has four distinguishable chapters that differ drastically in tone and content, and provide evidence of Wertmüller’s unique storytelling technique.

The cinema of Lina Wertmüller dangles before feminist critical theory like a poisoned carrot. One of the sharpest female auteurs of her time, Wertmüller is – in the modern vernacular – “problematic.” Her films present us with problems, often ones which we have no hope of solving. Seven Beauties is one such film, a slick and clever cavalcade of ugliness and grotesqueries on a historical scale that sees fit to incorporate pretty much every type of unpleasantness conceivable, from sexual assault to electroshock therapy to dismemberment to holocaust. Few filmmakers other than Wertmüller can flirt so openly with such nauseous subject matter and get away with it. She produced a picture that somehow achieves moments of great beauty and hilarity amidst the chaos, pain, and despair of abject human suffering.

Lina Wertmüller leaves us with a lengthy quote and a mystery at the end of Love and Anarchy (1973). The quote is from diehard anarchist icon Errico Malatesta and the mystery is how we as an audience are supposed to interpret it after what we just saw. Malatesta advocated violence against the state and its agents as an essential component of class struggle and glorious revolution, yet died an elderly man far from home and conflict. Giancarlo Giannini’s dirty-faced provincial Antonio “Tunin” Soffiantini, the world-weary protagonist of Wertmüller’s film, is a young man heavily entrenched in a violent struggle against the state.