Wednesday, June 22, 2016

2016 Blind Spot Series: Seven Beauties

Written and directed by Lina Wertmuller, Pasqualino Settebellezze (Seven Beauties) is the story of an Italian soldier who escapes from the army during World War II only to be captured by the Germans as he reflects on his life while trying to survive imprisonment. The film is a study of a man dealing with his situation in a world where he deals with the many roles he has played in his life. Starring Giancarlo Giannini, Fernando Rey, and Shirley Stoler. Pasqualino Settebellezze is a gripping yet evocative film from Lina Wertmuller.

The film is told in a back-and-forth narrative about an Italian who has been captured by the Germans during an escape from the army as he tries to survive his time in a concentration camp. At the camp, he endures torment while he reflects on his past into the events that got him there when he killed one of his sister’s boyfriends who was a pimp and put her into prostitution. The journey that Pasqualino (Giancarlo Giannini) would take would be an arduous one as he started off as a charmer who demanded respect while working for a local don during Fascist-era Italy. Upon his troubles where he would be in trial, set to a mental institution, and later be forced to serve in the army in World War II. Pasqualino would endure moments that are inhuman as the film’s script plays into what he encounters but also the sense of horror inside the concentration camp as he tries to find a way to survive. While there’s moments in Pasqualino that aren’t honorable due to how he treats women including his sister as well as a patient at the hospital.

Lina Wertmuller’s direction is very entrancing not just for the compositions that she creates but also in how visceral the images and situations are throughout the film. The film opens with this chilling sequence filled with stock footage of the war that is filled with cities being destroyed and men being killed all to narration by a man who says these words accompanied to anachronistic music that just adds to its dark tone. The film then meshes with something that could feel like stock footage and then turn real as Wertmuller’s camera is always in the action for the scene where Pasqualino is running around the woods with only a fellow soldier to join him. The usage of hand-held cameras for those scenes early in the film along with close-ups and medium shots play into the sense of terror but also humorous moments in the first act where Pasqualino and Francesco (Piero Di Iorio) are trying to find shelter only to be captured by the Germans.

The scenes set in Naples are much looser with an air of comedy but also display a world that Pasqualino felt free in as he is oblivious to what is really happening under the role of Benito Mussollini and the Fascists at the time. Once the film’s second act partially takes place in the concentration camp, it takes on an entirely different look and tone. The usage of wide and medium shots along with some intricate tracking and crane shots adds to the vast look of the camp but also in how horrifying it is. Even in scenes of violence where Wertmuller pulls no punches as there’s a scene early in the film where Pasqualino and Francesco watch a line of people being executed by the Nazis while some of the moments in the camp are even more gruesome. There is also a very disturbing scene where Wertmuller creates this air of sexual dominance where Pasqualino tries to seduce the camp’s commandant (Shirley Stoler) who hates Italians and wants him to fuck her despite how ugly and obese she is. It’s a moment that would mark a major change in Pasqualino as it would display some of the inhumanity he encounters during a dark era of war as he would also take part in it. Overall, Wertmuller creates a harrowing yet majestic film about a man dealing with consequences and terror during World War II.

Cinematographer Tonino Delli Colli does amazing work with the film‘s cinematography from the lush beauty of the interior/exterior scenes set in Naples to the more haunting and low-key lights for the scenes in the woods and the more stark tone of the camp. Editor Franco Fraticelli does excellent work with the editing as it is mostly straightforward with some jump-cuts and other striking transitions to play with the film‘s back-and-forth narrative. Production/costume designer Enrico Job, with set decorator Roberto Granieri and art director Veljko Despotovic, does fantastic work with the look of the sets for the scenes in Naples and at the prison camp along with the lavish costumes the women wear in Naples.

The sound work of Mario Bramonti is brilliant for the atmosphere it creates for not just some of the scenes set in Naples but also in mental institution and at the prison camp that just adds this sense of terror and discomfort. The film’s music by Enzo Jannacci is incredible for its usage of organs and rock-based instruments for the film’s opening sequence as well as some orchestral pieces for some of the dramatic moments in the film.

The film’s superb cast include some notable small roles from Barbara Valmorin as the commandant’s secretary, Francesca Marciano as Pasqualino’s fiancee, Mario Conti as the pimp whom one of Pasqualino’s seven sisters wants to marry, Lucio Amelio as a lawyer representing Pasqualino for his trial, Ermelinda De Felice as Pasqualino’s mother, and Robert Herlitzka as a Socialist prisoner Pasqualino would meet on his way to the mental hospital. Enzo Vitale is terrific as Don Raffaele who mentors Pasqualino into respectability and would help his family when Pasqualino is being sent away. Elena Fiore is wonderful as Pasqualino’s sister Concettina who would put her brother into trouble by wanting to marry her pimp and become a prostitute much to her brother’s dismay. Piero Di Iorio is fantastic as Francesco as a fellow soldier who escapes with Pasqualino only to endure some horrific abuse at the prison camp as he tries to rebel.

Shirley Stoler is excellent as the prison camp commandant as this very large woman who is so grotesque in her appearance as well as the things she would make Pasqualino do to save himself. Fernando Rey is amazing as Pedro as an anarchist prisoner who spouts ideas that are against all forms of Nazism and Fascism as he tries to create chaos at the camp. Finally, there’s Giancarlo Giannini in a phenomenal as Pasqualino Frafuso as an every man who starts off as a charming man that can get things his way only to commit murder and then have his life fall apart as he endures torment, humility, and anguish as it’s a performance for the ages from Giannini.

Pasqualino Settebellezze is a tremendous film from Lina Wertmuller that features an incredible performance from Giancarlo Giannini. It’s a film that explores not just some of chaos of World War II and the terror of concentration camps but also a man encountering some of the worst aspects of humanity. In the end, Pasqualino Settebellezze is a spectacular film from Lina Wertmuller.

Lina Wertmuller Films: (The Lizards) - (Let’s Talk About Men) - (Rita the Mosquito) - (Don’t Sting the Mosquito) - (The Belle Starr Story) - The Seduction of Mimi - (All Screwed Up) - Love and Anarchy - Swept Away (1974 film) - (A Night Full of Rain) - (Blood Feud) - (A Joke of Destiny) - (Softly, Softly) - (Camorra (A Story of Streets, Women and Crime) - (Summer Night) - (As Long as It’s Love) - (The Tenth One in Hiding) - (Ciao, Professore!) - (The Nymph) - (The Blue Collar Worker and the Hairdresser in a Whirl of Sex and Politics) - (Ferdinando and Carolina) - (Too Much Romance…It’s Time for Stuffed Peppers)

© thevoid99 2016

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