Reviews and notes
The film that launched the Wertmüller vogue in the US remains a hilarious satire, as a married man with communist ideals finds his commitment tested when he returns to town with his mistress. When Mimi (Giancarlo Giannini) is fired after voting against the Mafia candidate in a local election, he leaves his wife (Agostina Belli) and quits Sicily to seek work in Turin. There he falls in love with a sexually liberated anarchist (Mariangela Melato). When the couple move back to Turin, a revelation about his wife leads to a series of crazed events, and Mimi’s political ideals begin to ebb away. Lena Wertmüller’s bawdy satire boasts hilarious set pieces, and Giannini’s gift for larger-than-life comedy is exploited to its hilt. It’s the film that most evokes her love of commedia dell'arte tradition. Two scenes – one of domestic violence, one of a seduction attempt of a plus-size woman played by Wertmüller regular Elena Fiore – throw political correctness out the window, but Wertmüller’s critique of inadequate men is as sharp as ever.
Here is the perfect summer tonic: a brainy, rowdy comedy of bad manners and low politics. It moves fast — in places a little too fast — and on a couple of occasions breaks into episodes of deep, wild humor. The movie is Italian, and no better fun, domestic or imported, can currently be found.
The Seduction of Mimi
is the work of Lina Wertmuller, whose previous Love and Anarchy
also investigated, albeit a little more sorrowfully, the exotic compulsions of physical and political passion. Mimi
is set in Sicily, the location of much good Italian comedy. Sicily is one of those places that seem to be unconditionally guaranteed laugh getters, like Brooklyn or Southern California. What Wertmuller satirizes here is the peculiar Sicilian confluence of honor and hypocrisy, illegality and sanctimony.
Standing right at the storm center, and pulled in all directions, is a worker named Carmelo, called "Mimi," who incurs the wrath of the local Mafia honcho by declining to vote in the prescribed manner. Mimi (Giancarlo Giannini) leaves his indifferent wife at home and moves north to Turin. There he lands a job in a metallurgy plant, a position in the trade union and the love of a ravishing bohemian called Fiore (Mariangela Melato).
Untroubled by Mimi's marital obligations, Fiore asks for absolute love and scrupulous constancy. Mimi complies passionately, elevating adultery to exalted heights of fatherhood. Life is modest but full until Mimi is transferred back home to Sicily. He smuggles Fiore and their child into town, only to find that his wife has duplicated his situation by becoming pregnant by a lover of her own.
Wertmuller contrives to work Mimi into a position of moral criminality not much different from that of the gangsters he had earlier opposed. In one cruelly hilarious sequence, Mimi seduces the wife of the petty official who has cuckolded him with his wife. The women's gross flesh is the field of battle on which Mimi struggles to gain vengeance and restore what he insists upon thinking is his honor. In the end he just barely remains standing in the rubble of his double standard.
Giannini and Melato, who also starred in Love and Anarchy
, are once again fine here.
- JayCocks, TIME, 22 July 1974.
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