Lina Wertmuller - Director




Nationality: Italian. Born: Arcangela Felice Assunta Wertmuller von Elgg Spanol von Braueich in Rome, 14 August 1928. Family: Married to the artist Enrico Job (1968). Education: Attended several Catholic schools, and the Academy of Theatre in Rome. Career: Worked with Maria Signorelli's puppet troupe, 1951–52; worked as an actress, stage manager, set designer, publicist, and writer for theater, radio, and television; from 1952; worked as an assistant to Fellini on 8 1/2 , 1962; directed first feature, I basilischi , 1963; Film d'amore e d'anarchia her first film released in the United States; signed by Warner Bros. to direct four films, 1973. Awards: Silver Sail, Locarno Film Festival, for I basilischi , 1963. Address: Piazza Clotilde 5, 00196 Rome, Italy.


Films as Director and Writer:

1963

I basilischi ( The Lizards )

1965

Questa volta parliamo di uomini ( Now, Let's Talk about Men ; This Time Let's Talk about Men )

Lina Wertmuller
Lina Wertmuller




1967

Non stuzzicate la zanzara ( Don't Tease the Mosquito )

1972

Mimi metallurgio ferito nell'onore ( The Seducation of Mimi ; Mimi the Metalworker ; Wounded in Honour )

1973

Film d'amore e d'anarchia, ovvero stamattina alle 10 in Via dei fiori nella nota casa di toleranza ( Film of Love and Anarchy, or This Morning at Ten in the Via dei fiori at the Well-known House of Tolerance )

1974

Tutto a posto e niente in ordine ( Everything's in Order But Nothing Works ; All Screwed Up ); Travolti da un insolito destino nell'azzurro mare d'agosto ( Swept Away. . . by an Unusual Destiny in the Blue Sea of August ; Swept Away. . . )

1976

Pasqualino settebellezze ( Pasqualino ; Seven Beauties )

1978

La Fine del mondo in una notte piena di poggia ( The End of the World in Our Usual Bed in a Night Full of Rain ; A Night Full of Rain ); Shimmy lagarno tarantelle e vino ; Fatto di sangue fra due uomini per causa di una vedova ( Blood Feud ; Revenge )

1979

Belle Starr (as "Nathan Wich" (for TV)

1981

E una Domenica sera di novembre (for TV)

1983

Scherzo del destinoin aqquato dietro l'angelo come un brigante di strada ( A Joke of Destiny, Lying in Wait around the Corner Kike a Street Bandit ) (co-sc)

1984

Sotto, Sotto (co-sc)

1986

Camorra ( Vicoli e delitti; Un complicato intrigo di donne, vicoli e delitti; The Naples Connection ) (co-sc); Notte d'estate, con profilo Greco, occhi amandorla e odore di basilico ( Summer Night with Greek Profile, Almond Eyes, and Scent of Basil )

1989

In una notte di chiaro luna ( In a Full Moon Night ); Il Decimo clandestino

1990

Saturday, Sunday, Monday

1994

Io speriamo che me la cavo ( Ciao, Professore! ) (co-sc)

1996

Ninfa plebea ( The Nymph ); Metal neccanico e parrucchiera in un turbine di sesso e di politica ( The Worker and the Hairdresser ; The Blue Collar Worker and the Hairdresser in a Whirl of Sex and Politics ) (+ co-story)

1999

An Interesting State ; Fernando e Carolina (co-sc)



Other Films:

1963

Otto e mezzo ( 8 1/2 ) (Fellini) (asst d)

1966

Rita la zanzara ( Rita the Mosquito ) (d musical numbers only, sc)

1970

Quando de donne avevano la coda ( When Women Had Tails ) (Festa Campanile) (co-sc); Citta violenta ( Violent City; The Family ) (Sollima) (co-sc)

1972

Fratelli sole, sorella luna ( Brother Sun, Sister Moon ) (Zeffirelli) (co-sc)

1999

Un Amico magico: il maestro Nino Rota (Monicelli) (doc) (as Herself)



Publications


By WERTMULLER: books—

The Screenplays of Lina Wertmuller , translated by Steven Wagner, New York, 1977.

The Head of Alvise , London, 1983.

By WERTMULLER: articles—

Interview in Woman and Film (Santa Monica, California), no. 5–6, 1974.

Interview in Interview (New York), March 1975.

"Look, Gideon—Gideon Bachman Talks with Lina Wertmuller," in Film Quarterly (Berkeley), Spring 1977.

"Lina Sweeps In," interview with G. Ott, in Cinema Canada (Montreal), March 1978.

Interview with C. J. Rotondi, in Films in Review (New York), November 1984.

Interview with B. Steinborn, in Filmfaust (Frankfort), April-May 1986.


On WERTMULLER: books—

Dokumentation: Lina Wertmuller/Martin Scorsese , Zurich, 1986.

Michalczyk, John J., The Italian Political Filmmakers , Cranbury, New Jersey, 1986.

Bruno, Giuliana, and Maria Nadotti, editors, Off Screen: Women and Film in Italy , London, 1988.

Jacobsen, Wolfgang, and others, Lina Wertmuller , Munich, 1988.


On WERTMULLER: articles—

Durgnat, Raymond, in Films and Filming (London), October 1964.

Biskind, Peter, "Lina Wertmuller: The Politics of Private Life," in Film Quarterly (Berkeley), Winter 1974–75.

Willis, Ellen, "Is Lina Wertmuller Just One of the Boys?" in Rolling Stone (New York), 25 March 1976.

Quacinella, L., "How Left Is Lina?," in Cineaste (New York), Fall 1976.

Jacobs, Diane, "Lina Wertmuller," in International Film Guide 1978 (London), 1978.

Tutt, Ralph, " Seven Beauties and the Beast: Bettelheim, Wertmuller, and the Uses of Enchantment," in Literature Film Quarterly (Salisbury, Maryland), no. 3, 1989.

"Missing Persons Corner," in Variety (New York), 29 July 1991.

Manera, P., in Cineforum (Bergamo, Italy), December 1991.

Samueli, A., "Fellini au travail," in Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), December 1993.

"Lina Wertmuller una mujer inolvidable," in Sin Cortes (Buenos Aires), January 1997.


* * *


By the mid-1970s, Lina Wertmuller had directed a series of sharply observed (though, in retrospect, markedly uneven) features which brought her international fame and made her one of the shining lights of European cinema. At their best, her films were crammed with pointed humor, astute social commentary, and outrageous sexuality. In 1976, she even became the first woman to win a Best Director Academy Award nomination, for Seven Beauties.

In recent years, Wertmuller's critical reputation has been tarnished. For one thing, the quality of her work has sharply deteriorated. For another, her detractors have dubbed her a reactionary, labeling her films as grotesque and self-absorbed, with little love for humanity. Meanwhile, her champions hail her as a defender of the downtrodden, an idealistic anarchist who realizes anarchy is impractical yet still cherishes the notion of total individual freedom. Upon examining her films, one might decide that most of her characters are caricatures, or might consider them sympathetic human beings. It all depends on the interpretation.

Wertmuller's films most characteristically focus on the eternal battle between the sexes, fought with noisy screaming matches and comical seductions in a class warfare setting. Her most typical features—those which cemented her reputation—may be found in the middle of her career, from The Seduction of Mimi through Swept Away. . . All are imperfect: for every inspired sequence—most notably, in The Seduction of Mimi , Giancarlo Giannini's antics between the sheets with a ridiculously obese woman—there are long stretches of repetitious ax-grinding on sex, love, anarchy, fascism, and the class struggle.

In the battles of the sexes, Wertmuller's films are relatively consistent with regard to the portrayal of men and women. Wertmuller's favorite actor is All Screwed Up star Giancarlo Giannini. His characters think they are suave, but they really are stubborn and stupid, in constant trouble both politically and sexually. In Love and Anarchy , set in 1932, for example, Giannini plays an anarchist, hiding in a brothel, who plans to assassinate Mussolini but instead falls for a prostitute. Wertmuller's women, on the other hand, are not politically aware, and are uninterested in struggling for self-sufficiency. Seven Beauties , filled with stunning images, is Wertmuller's penultimate feature: a searing drama about survival in a surreal, insane world. It chronicles the odyssey of a Don Juan (Giannini) through the horrors of World War II. The highlight of the film is a typically gruesome Wertmullian seduction sequence in which the "hero" entices a piggish female concentration-camp commandant.

Over the decades, the reputation of Seven Beauties has suffered because of the declining quality of Wertmuller's subsequent films. The End of the World in Our Usual Bed in a Night Full of Rain , her first English-language effort, is a verbose marital boxing match pitting journalist/communist Giannini and photographer/feminist Candice Bergen. Revenge , also known as Blood Feud , is the exaggerated tale of a radical lawyer (Marcello Mastroianni) and a gangster (Giannini) who love the beautiful widow Sophia Loren during the early years of fascist rule in Italy. Both films were released in the late 1970s, and were followed by over a dozen forgettable films made over the next two decades.

Easily Wertmuller's most accessible later-career films are Sotto, Sotto and Ciao, Professore! Thematically speaking, Sotto, Sotto is related to her earlier work in that it is a tale of sexual combat, but with a twist. It is the story of a married woman who becomes romantically attracted to her best (female) friend, which predictably piques her brutally sexist husband. Ciao, Professore! is a social comedy about a Northern Italian grade school teacher accustomed to working with affluent children, who is mistakenly assigned to an impoverished village near Naples. The film comically details the interactions and developing relationships between the teacher and the students. While not as disappointing as her other post- Seven Beauties features, Sotto, Sotto and Ciao, Professore! are formulaic stories whose high points do not compare to their counterparts in Love and Anarchy, Swept Away. . . and, most certainly, Seven Beauties.


—Rob Edelman



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