Thursday, August 30, 2012

Lina Wertmüller: Summer Night, with Greek Profile, Almond Eyes and Scent of Basil

On the one hand, Lina Wertmüller's Notte d'estate con profilo greco, occhi a mandorla e odore di basilico / Summer Night, with Greek Profile, Almond Eyes and Scent of Basil (1986) captures the garishness of the 1980s, and on the other, it continues to explore some of her perennial topics -- sex and power, gender and socio-economic class. Despite beautiful scenery, a catchy kitsch pop soundtrack, pugnacious dialogue and memorable performances by Mariangela Melato (as super wealthy Fulvia) and Roberto Herlitzka (as semi-retired CIA contractor Turi), I can't imagine many would seek this one out.

The basic setup for Summer Night, with Greek Profile, Almond Eyes and Scent of Basil  is this: Fulvia has Turi capture a bandit gangster (Beppe, played gruntingly by Michele Placido) to toy with while waiting for ransom from his crime organization in revenge for ransom her corporation had paid to it. They keep him in chains, eyes often covered. Despite the comic tone of the film, it evokes certain unpleasant images (Gitmo and Abu Ghraib come to mind, for instance), and there are unflattering references to the US-Vietnam War, the Shah's Iran and the Iranian Revolution, and US involvement in Nicaragua. Use of technology includes closed circuit TV (constant surveillance of the prisoner) and psychological manipulation. Beyond this, there is a primal mutual attraction between Fulvia and Beppe, making Turi jealous. For better and for worse, human nature endures -- "and the rest is history."  
Today's Rune: Movement.    


WAS said...

Thank you, Erik, for writing such trenchant commentaries on some bad-ass obscure movies. You really push me out of my (I thought it was wide) comfort zone. Just today I was contemplating how De Sica was so much more aligned with a feminine way of looking at things than Wertmuller, and now there's another film to consider. I'm glad that someone is keeping up with the past!

Charles Gramlich said...

that actress definitely has lovely eyes.