Seven Beauties / Pasqualino Settebellezze (1975)

4.0 out of 5

Like another female director, Kathryn Bigelow, it's hard not to marvel at Lina Wertmuller's ability to direct film so masculinely. This in the Italian film industry? Yet here we don't get car crashes, squibs, and Hitchcockian rape, but, instead, are presented with the disturbing mind-set of one mysogynist Neopolitan pig, Giancarlo Giannini who travels the downward path from big city pimpdom to prison to mental institution to WW II concentration camp, all the while losing his soul and his dignity.

If the sight of Giannini's bouncing buttocks while being sexually assaulted by a morbidly obese, female, Nazi prison guard isn't enough to deem Wertmuller's film style as "aggressive" or "challenging", what would?

Still, amidst the atrocities there's plenty of intellectual and sociological themes being explored; it is a European film after all and Wertmuller's icky dissection of sex roles is definitely potent stuff. While Giannini is punished for his machismo, as well as the convenient rape of a mental patient while she's tied to a bed, Wertmuller still tries to find some empathy for him. Naturally, reducing a man to sexually humiliated mush is one way to ellicit sympathy from an audience. At least in Italy.

It is more than gratifying to see Giannini castrated for all his bug-eyed, Eye-talian acting theatrics in the first 30 minutes of the movie, these only exaggerated by the film's style which gives way to a total shift in tone during the movie's latter dark half. Obviously, a shock to most audiences at the time, who accused Wertmuller of making fun of the Holocaust. Naughty Lina.

Maurizio Merli header graphic courtesy of Paddy O'Neill of Foxyfide Graphics