The Lina Wertmuller Collection: (Summer Night / The Nymph / Swept Away / Seven Beauties / Ferdinando and Carolina)
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(Sep 06, 2005)
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Few filmmakers have stirred up as much controversy as Lina Wertmuller. This six-disc collection includes the films Swept Away, Seven Beauties, Summer Night, The Nymph and Ferdinando and Carolina plus a bonus disc of DVD extras, including an extensive 78 minute interview with Lina Wertmuller by Italian film critic Carlo Lizzani plus English and Italian trailers.
The first woman ever nominated for the Oscar® for Best Direction gets her own DVD collection, a grab bag of five titles plus a long interview. The Oscar nod came at the end of a crowded run of provocative movies in the first half of the 1970s, during which time Lina Wertmuller became an obligatory name to drop at cocktail parties. The DVD set is anchored by two of those 1970s must-sees. Swept Away, which became one of the art-house hits of its era (lots of intellectual-political stuff, but lots of skin, too) strands prattling socialite Mariangela Melato and insolent deckhand Giancarlo Giannini on a desert island together after her yachting party goes awry. The power games between the two, and the endless socio-economic justifications for same, are fun to watch, and the beauty of the actors isn't bad, either. (Sweep away thoughts of the Madonna remake.) The DVD set uses the shortened U.S. release title for this film: it's really Swept Away by an Unusual Destiny on the Blue Sea of August.
Seven Beauties is the film that brought Wertmuller the Oscar nomination. Giannini takes the lead role again (he copped a heroically earned Oscar nomination too), as a Neapolitan ne'er-do-well who ends up in a Nazi concentration camp. Wertmuller's wild approach may be all over the place, but the movie certainly is alive. The remainder of the DVD package can't live up to these two films, although Summer Night (full title: Summer Night, with Greek Profile, Almond Eyes, and Scent of Basil) has echoes of Swept Away. Melato returns to the heroine role, but the edginess of the earlier film is replaced by a gaudy fantasia about a wealthy woman who kidnaps a sort of environmental terrorist and sexually dominates him. As hotsy-totsy as that sounds, the movie feels like something Wertmuller's done before, although it's beautifully shot and Melato is scrumptious.
The other two films are The Nymph, a sturdy-enough but minor 1996 film about a beleaguered girl whose harsh village life changes when she meets a soldier (the era is WWII); only problem is, his family expects him to marry a virgin. Stefania Sandrelli is in the cast. Distinctly less watchable is Ferdinando and Carolina, a rambunctious 1999 historical comedy set in 18th-century Naples. The subject matter gives Wertmuller a chance to dig into her favorite subjects, sex and politics, but with lesser returns. The "extras" disc is essentially a 78-minute interview with Wertmuller. It's perfectly enjoyable, if a little "inside" to the Italian cinema. The woman does know how to talk--you can see how she beguiled her way to the top of European cinema for a while. --Robert Horton
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