Offscreen Notes

Lina Wertmüller (1928-Dec. 9, 2021)

December 10th, 2021

One of Italy’s most notorious, famous and greatest filmmakers of the modern era, Lina Wertmüller, died on Dec. 9 at the ripe age of 93. Wertmüller started her film career in the 1960s working as an assistant to Federico Fellini before cutting out her own unique style that married Fellini’s broad surrealist touches with her training of many years touring with an Italian avant-garde puppet troupe. After studying drama Wertmüller toured Europe with Maria Signorelli’s controversial puppet troupe where they did macabre, Kafkesque shows with Picassoesque puppets than featured violent and ritualistic murders. It is here, along with Fellini’s influence, that she developed a film style that continued the tradition of the Italian grotesque and carnivalesque comedy, a form that is seen most commonly in Italian commedia dell’arte, opera buffa and Italian puppet theatre. Wertmüller’s films were never afraid to challenge and marry issues of gender with politics –her views often times heavy-handed, but consistent within the tradition of the grotesque and carnivalesque she grew out of. In 1976 her outspoken and decidedly messy brand of feminism became known outside her Native Italy when she became the first woman to be nominated in the Best Director category for Seven Beauties. By far her peak period was the 1970s, where she struck a wonderful working relationship with the charismatic pairing of Giancarlo Giannini and Mariangela Melato across several of these films (The Seduction of Mimi (1972), Love and Anarchy (1973), All Screwed Up (1974), Swept Away by an Unusual Destiny in the Blue Sea of August (1974), Seven Beauties (1975), A Night Full of Rain (1978), and Blood Feud (1978). It is fair to say that they broke the mould with Lina Wertmüller and that we’ll never see the likes of her again.

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