Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Lina Wertmüller: Pasqualino Settebellezze / Seven Beauties

Lina Wertmüller's Seven Beauties (1975) brims over with frenetic and dazzling energy. It presents the years of Mussolini and Hitler and the Holocaust with a crisp originality. Not coincidentally, Wertmüller was the first female director to ever receive a nomination for an Academy Award for Best Director. (Kathryn Bigelow was the first woman to actually win Best Director, and that in 2009 for The Hurt Locker -- more than three decades after Seven Beauties).

What's the story arc? First we see a stunning montage of archival footage from the Second World War synchronized with a strange sing-song punctuated with "Oh yeah's." Then, a blending of flashbacks and chronological jumps that are done with remarkable deftness. We follow the main character (Pasqualino Seven Beauties), an absurd popinjay and petty player, on a rollercoaster ride of personal decisions mixed with grand luck or fate, good and bad, played out. We see him having deserted from Stalingrad* and fleeing for his life, but also in an insane asylum and a concentration camp. Will he survive, and what will become of his mother and sisters whether he does or not? Horrifying situations enlivened by dark humor.

*Not widely known in the West, the Italian 8th Army lost about 21,000 killed at Stalingrad; perhaps 45,000 escaped alive from the great Soviet strategic trap.

Today's Rune: Defense.    

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