Few filmmakers display the kind of gall or temerity that Lina Wertmüller did while making a film as unapologetically divisive, discomfiting, ferocious and provocative as Seven Beauties. Deliriously dripping with tar black humour that fluctuated between bawdy lowbrow comedy, outrageous farce, pungent satire and grotesque horror, its picaresque portrayal of a hustler – who nonchalantly plumbs the nadir of morality to survive – formed a grimy counterpoint to the unsurpassed savagery of fascism that engulfed Europe during the 1930s and 40s (and, in some cases, even beyond). The movie, as a result, was troubling and tour de force in equal measures, and thus a devious work of such stunning bravado that simultaneously astonished and appalled as its zany, achronologically structured narrative unfolded. Its protagonist/antagonist is Pasqualino (astoundingly played by Giancarlo Giannini), a smug, dandy and proudly patriarchal Neapolitan scoundrel who kills a pimp for having outraged his “family honour” by luring one of his sisters to what he construes as decadent; dismembers the corpse to hide the murder; gets into an asylum by pleading insanity; commits a hideous act there that lands him in Mussolini’s army (which he has no qualms in embracing); turns a deserter only to be captured by the Nazis and thrown into a concentration camp; and tries seducing the camp’s sadistic, obese commander and puts some of his comrades to their death to save his neck. Comprising of a terrific opening montage – wherein documentary footage is accompanied by jazz score and voiceover dripping with sarcasm towards proponents and apologists of fascism – flamboyant aesthetic palette, and wildly oscillating tones that build towards utter desolation, this felt like a film made by Fellini’s doppelgänger while drunk on Molotov Cocktail.
Director: Lina Wertmuller
Genre: Comedy/Black Comedy/Political Satire