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June 20 - 23

The Disorder of Things – A Lina Wertmüller Retrospective

During the 1970s, Lina Wertmüller (b. 1928) emblazoned her name into the pantheon of Italian cinema with a series of intensely polemical, deeply controversial and wonderfully entertaining films. Among the most politically outspoken and iconoclastic members of the second generation of postwar directors – the direct heirs to the neo-realists – Wertmüller was also one of the first woman directors to be internationally recognized and acclaimed. Armed with a keenly satiric and Rabelaisian humor, Wertmüller reinvented the narrative forms and character types of Italian comedy to create one of the rare examples of a radical, politically galvanized cinema that managed to achieve widespread popularity. Indeed, the fierce invectives against social, cultural and historical inequities at the heart of Wertmüller's mid-1970s masterworks Love and Anarchy, Seven Beauties and Swept Away seemed only to help the films find an appreciative audience, especially in the United States, where they broke box office records for foreign films and even secured Wertmüller an Oscar nomination for Best Director – the very first woman named for this category.

Although Wertmüller remains a well-known name, her remarkable films are strangely overlooked and only selectively revisited. And yet, the incredible energy and daring of her most popular works is equally present in lesser-known masterpieces such as All Screwed Up and The Seduction of Mimi, films that are both extremely topical and yet still totally relevant today.

Special thanks to: the Academy Foundation, Cecilia Miniucchi; Gioia Donati; Camilla Cormanni, Anna Principato, Federica Terzulli, Cinecitta; Liborio Stellino, Consul General of Italy, Boston; Renato Miracco, Italian Cultural Institute, New York.

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Lina Wertmüller's Appearance Has Been Canceled
Friday June 20 at 7pm

The Seduction of Mimi aka Mimi, Metal-worker, Wounded in Honor
(Mimi metallurgico ferito nell'onore)

Directed by Lina Wertmüller, Appearing in Person
With Giancarlo Giannini, Mariangela Melato
Italy 1972, 35mm, color, 121 min.
Italian with English subtitles

Wertmüller's signature style of playfully distorted caricature and
sharp political satire found its first full expression in this delightful and wickedly funny skewering of Italian class and labor relations. Fleeing from the mob, Sicilian laborer Mimi (Giannini) abandons his family to escape to Milan where he promptly falls in love with a hippie radical and is pulled into the far left of a political struggle he little understands. Refracted through the cracked prism of Giannini's feckless Southerner, Italy's troubled North-South relations and the never-ending battle of the sexes are woven into an operatic comedy about the alienation of labor in the 20th century.

The Lizards (I Basilischi)

Directed by Lina Wertmüller, Appearing in Person
With Antonio Petruzzi, Stefano Satta Flores
Italy 1963, 35mm, b/w, 85 min.
Italian with English subtitles

After apprenticing with Fellini as assistant director on 8-1/2, Wertmüller wrote and
directed her little known feature debut, a heartfelt and intimate portrait of listless youth and the lonely poetry of everyday life in small town Italy. While The Lizards often closely approaches the themes of Fellini's I Vitelloni, Wertmüller's film is distinguished by her wonderfully eccentric visual touches – unexpected camera flourishes and formally exquisite mise-en-scene – and by an early and gentler questioning of Italian machismo than would be voiced in her later films.

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Lina Wertmüller's Appearance Has Been Canceled
Saturday June 21 at 7pm

Seven Beauties aka Pasqualino Seven-Beauties
(Pasqualino Settebellezze)

Directed by Lina Wertmüller, Appearing in Person
With Giancarlo Giannini, Shirley Stoler
Italy 1975, 35mm, color, 115 min.
Italian with English subtitles

Wertmüller's grotesque masterpiece takes the Chaplinesque
tendency in her work – the melding of the comic and tragic – to its furthest and most dangerous extreme. Giancarlo Giannini is unforgettable as the wily Sicilian anti-hero who manages to awaken our deepest sympathies, suspicions and eventually horror as he tries to charm his way out of a series of scandalous situations, culminating notoriously in a Nazi concentration camp. An international smash hit, Seven Beauties offers a bracing and unexpected reply to Adorno's questioning of the status of post-Auschwitz art and an important corrective to Life is Beautiful, Roberto Benigni's ridiculously overrated and Oscar-nominated sugarcoating of the Holocaust.

Let's Talk About Men aka This Time Let's Talk About Men
(Questa volta parliamo di uomini)

Directed by Lina Wertmüller, Appearing in Person
With Nino Manfredi, Luciana Paluzzi, Milena Vukotic
Italy 1965, 35mm, b/w, 90 min.
Italian with English subtitles

In response to Ettore Scola's Let's Talk About Women (1964), which is made up of nine comic sketches starring Vittorio Gassman, Wertmüller presents this collection of four black comedies starring Nino Manfredi. Although Wertmüller's first sketch shows a clever woman getting the better of her spouse, the fate of the women in the subsequent parts gets increasingly dire. (Wertmüller's second sketch seems to be a savage satire of La Strada.) Wertmüller has referred to Let's Talk About Men as her only truly feminist film; it is also the one of her films that reveals most clearly her debt to, and her difference from, the classic Italian comedies of the 1960s.

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Sunday June 22 at 3pm

Love and Anarchy aka At 10 O'clock This Morning on the Via dei Fiori in a Well-Known Bordello
(Film d'amore e d'anarchia…)

Directed by Lina Wertmüller.
With Giancarlo Giannini, Mariangela Melato, Lina Polito
Italy 1973, 35mm, color, 124 min.
Italian with English subtitles

The titular forces are incarnated in Love and Anarchy's two female
protagonists, prostitutes in an elegant brothel in 1930s Rome at the height of the Fascist regime. As a member of the anti-fascist resistance, Salome (Melato) embodies anarchy, the contact for southern peasant Tunin (Giannini) who comes to the big city to assassinate Mussolini as vengeance for a friend's murder by the fascists. While arranging the assassination, Tunin is smitten by the embodiment of Love, Salome's younger, naïve and beautiful colleague Tripolina (Polito). Out of Tunin's contradictory commitments to these two women, and their differing demands of him, Wertmüller fashions a dark and politically astute comedy of the clash between desire and will.

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Sunday June 22 at 7pm

Night Full of Rain aka The End of the World in Our Usual Bed in a Night Full of Rain (La Fine del mondo nel nostro solito letto in una notte piena di pioggia)

Directed by Lina Wertmüller.
With Giancarlo Giannini, Candice Bergen
Italy 1978, 35mm, color, 104 min.
Italian with English subtitles

If the warring couple in Swept Away represents the proletariat and
the bourgeoisie, here the pair stuck in a love/hate relationship with no exit represents the Old and New Worlds. Giannini plays a rumpled, chauvinist Communist reporter, Bergen an elegant, liberal bourgoise-turned-feminist from San Francisco. This time comedy takes a back seat to drama, as the two try living with and without each other, failing at both. Like Swept Away, the underrated Night Full of Rain again reveals the basis for Wertmüller's tragicomic vision of politics to lie in a kind of anti-Hegelian anarchism – the two lovers attract as opposites, but with an attraction that makes any synthesis between them impossible.

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Sunday June 22 at 9pm

Sotto Sotto (Sotto…sotto…strapazzato da anomala passione)

Directed by Lina Wertmüller.
With Enrico Montesano, Veronica Lario, Luisa De Santis
Italy 1983, 35mm, color, 105 min.
Italian with English subtitles

Wertmüller uses lesbianism to deflate Italian machismo in this rarely seen comedy of (bad) manners. Ester (Lario) finds herself sexually attracted to her newly divorced friend Adele (De Santis). When Ester admits another love to her hot-headed husband, he searches manically for the rival, who he never suspects is a woman. With the discovery of the truth, the farce turns tragicomic as Wertmüller focuses upon the husband's unraveling. Rather than on an examination of lesbianism in an Italian context, Wertmüller uses sex as a metaphor for self-discovery.

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Monday June 23 at 7pm

Swept Away aka Swept Away by an Unusual Destiny in the Blue Sea of August (Travolti da un insolito destino nell'azzuro mare d'agosto)

Directed by Lina Wertmüller.
With Giancarlo Giannini, Mariangela Melato
Italy 1974, 35mm, color, 116 min.
Italian with English subtitles

Swept Away's story is as simple and vivid as a folk tale, or a dirty
joke. Cruising the Mediterranean on her yacht, a beautiful, haughty bourgeoise (Melato) flaunts her disdain for her hulking Communist manservant (Giannini). Once they are shipwrecked on a deserted island, however, the tables turn with a vengeance. While Swept Away is often read as a wicked subversion of feminism, Wertmüller has explained that gender is simply a symbol in a fable not about the war between the sexes, but about the war between the classes. Paired by Wertmüller for the third time, Melato and Giannini spark beautifully in this anarchic, and anarchist, updating of The Taming of the Shrew.

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Monday June 23 at 9:15pm

All Screwed Up aka Everything's OK but Nothing Works
(Tutto a posto e niente in ordine)

Directed by Lina Wertmüller.
With Luigi Diberto, Lina Polito
Italy 1974, 35mm, color, 105 min.
Italian with English subtitles

The literal translation of the Italian title for this ensemble piece set in the kitchen of a restaurant in Milan is, "Everything in place but nothing in working order." We follow the frenzied lives of the kitchen employees, mostly migrant Southern workers, and their lovers and families. While we never see the restaurant, the kitchen's immense size makes obvious the film's allegorical design. The characters work in the kitchen of the world, trying to satisfy the appetite of a society that consumes more and more. The onscreen events are farcical, but the grim reality of the displaced workers' lives lingers in the background, giving the film a poignant air of tragedy.

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