The political is personal in Lina Wertmüller’s moving tragicomedy about a country bumpkin who comes to Rome to assassinate Mussolini, and finds love in an upscale whorehouse. The story starts out funny, becomes surprisingly romantic, but never strays from an intense sadness.
If you were too young in the 70s to watch R-rated, subtitled films, you may not realize just how important Wertmüller was in those days. Feminism was only beginning to make a dent in mainstream American culture, and Hollywood had no significant female directors (as if it has many of them now). Then, out of Italy comes these serious, thoughtful, artistic, and political films written and directed by a woman.
The weird thing was: The only thing feminist about her films was the fact that she was making them. Some, especially Swept Away, were even accused of misogyny.
Love and Anarchy didn’t suffer from that accusation. Wertmüller’s muse, Giancarlo Giannini, plays the country bumpkin, a character very different from the macho protagonists he played in other Wertmüller films. Massive freckles and bad hair hide his good looks, and he spends much of the picture looking astonished and confused by the big city and the prostitutes.
He’s on a mission, of course, although the film never makes clear who sent him. His first stop is the whorehouse–not because he wants to get laid, but because his contact is one of the whores (Salome, played by Mariangela Melato). Things get complicated when he falls in love with Tripolina (Lina Polito), and she falls in love with him.
Of course Salome and Tripolina are not their real names. But the would-be assassin goes by a false name, as well: Tunin.
True love never did run smooth, but it’s especially rocky here. The fact that Tripolina has sex with other men for money is the least of their problems (Tunin gets her in her time off). More pressing is the fact that Tunin is on what is basically a suicide mission. It’s never said explicitly, but I couldn’t help suspecting that someone decided to send an expendable fool.
Love and Anarchy starts out funny and turns surprisingly romantic, but there’s a sense of doom over everything. While strongly anti-Fascist, it takes a dim view of those who become romantically enamored with violent solutions. It fits no genre and offers no easy answers. It’s a must.
How It Looks
For a low-budget Italian film originally released in 1973, Love and Anarchy looks positively scrumptious. The colors look dead-on accurate, and details are sharp (except, of course, when they’re supposed to be soft). Film grain is visible, but not overwhelming. It never looks like video.
I don’t know the source for this transfer, but it must have been a good one. Perhaps in 1973, Rome Technicolor knew how to treat a negative.
How It Sounds
The film’s original mono soundtrack is reproduced in lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0. It sounds great, probably closer to what Wertmüller heard when she approved the final mix than anything heard in a movie theater of that time.
And the Extras
Almost nothing. Love and Anarchy comes only with a gallery of 12 production stills and a selection of three trailers.
But the movie is good enough on its own to be worth buying.