Sunday, March 31, 2013

Interval Twelve - Seven Beauties

A Review of Seven Beauties, a film by Lina Wertmuller
                                                  The cover of the film Seven Beauties
Released in 1975, this movie received nominations for Best Director, Best Actor, Best Screenplay and Best Foreign Film from the Academy Awards, Golden Globes, Screen Director’s Guild, and New York Film Critics Circle Awards.  
   Ths review  is written primarily by an associate who has served as a guide to all things Jewish, such as ceremonies and prayers for the blog A Ball for Genia. Here is his reaction to the movie—
   I’d never seen Lina Wertmuller’s movie Seven Beauties although, as a Jew, I’ve tried to see all movies, documentaries, docudramas  and fictions  relating even remotely to the Holocaust. Seeing Seven Beauties now, at a considerable distance from World War II, still evokes emotions relating to the horrors of that time.  Early in the movie, it becomes obvious that the nominations of Lina Wertmüller as Best Director, Giancarlo Giannini as Best actor, and the movie as Best Foreign Film, are justified.
   The star of Seven beauties is Giancarlo Giannini, who brilliantly plays Pasqualino Frafuso.  Because of Pasqualino’s reputation as a seducer (and perhaps a pimp), he gains the title the name Pasqualino Settebellezze (Pasqualino Seven Beauties), which implies that he is irresistible to women.  (He confesses he doesn’t know why because he thinks himself pretty ugly.)           
                                         Pasqualino Frafuso
     But this “virtue” proves to be a life saver later on when he is imprisoned in a Nazi concentration camp.
     Torn between devotion to his sisters, and striving for success in his professional activity, he wends his way through a mixture of comic and tragic adventures. One of his adventures results in the accidental shooting of his sister’s fat pimp, and the problem of disposing of the body. He solves the problem by chopping the body up and loading it into three very heavy bundles, which he plans on shipping off  to three different cities. But the bundles  are very heavy—so heavy that he staggers about much as Charlie Chaplin would, which provides a comedy bit, especially when he has to fight off a big dog that is very curious as to what those bundles contain.                                 

      He is caught, of course, but convinces a trial court that he is insane.  While in an asylum and serving as an orderly, he rapes a female patient who is bound to a bed. To get rid of him, the asylum keepers force him into the Italian army. Apparently he deserts the army with a  friend, wanders around in a forest, steals food, and is caught by German soldiers, who put the two into a concentration camp.  Conditions  in the camp are so awful that he decides he will do anything to survive.
                                              Pasqualino the prisoner
     He decides to seduce  the camp commander, who is a formidable woman who must weigh at least 350 pounds, and who deals out death to the prisoners every day. He hopes he can do it—his survival depends on it.  His mother told him that every woman has a bit of sweetness in her and perhaps this one does.                                  
     He first attracts her attention by whistling a love song when she is near, then confesses his love.  She takes him up on it, and brings him to her chamber for the event.  But in another dark comic scene, he can’t “get it up”  because of hunger. She feeds him and he succeeds.  As a reward, she puts him in charge of his barracks, but only on the condition that he select six inmates for execution by a firing squad; otherwise, she will order the immolation of him and his entire barracks. He has no choice but to commit this atrocity in spite of whatever principles he has left. In addition, he has to shoot his best friend with a bullet to the head.
     But he does survive the concentration camp and the war, and returns to his village to the  triumphant acclaim of his sisters, who are now very happy in the company of numerous American soldiers and sailors.   But Pasqualino Settebelleze is a changed man, much chastened, and no longer the flippant lothario—        

                                          Pasqualino chastened                      He proposes marriage to a local beauty, and vows to have children—many children. . . and even hundreds of children!
In summaryIs Seven Beauties truly a Holocaust movie?  The components of this genre always seemed to be Nazis, Jews (or their persecuted counterparts such as gypsies, homosexuals, or captives from opposing countries).  Here we have allies of the Nazis, who, despite their illegal and/or immoral activities, still suffer the depredations of torture and imprisonment under Mussolini’s friends.  The depiction of the camp, its inmates and staff, appear to be as evil as movies showing Auschwitz, Buchenwald, and other hellholes of Nazi ignominy.                                                 
The primary members of the cast of Seven Beauties are:    
    Giancarlo Giannini as Pasqualino Frafuso, aka Settebellezze
   Fernando Rey as Pedro, the Anarchist Prisoner
   Shirley Stoler as The Prison Camp Commandant
   Elena Fiore as Concettina (a sister)
   Piero Di Iorio as Francesco (Pasqualino's comrade)
   Enzo Vitale as Don Raffaele
If you want to learn more about Seven Beauties, click on the link to Wikipedia.
Seven Beauties comes in a two-disk set.  The second disk provides for an interview with a charming Lina Wertmüller who is an ebullient 78 years of age. She relates the history of Italian films and the actors, based on her experience of the past 50 years.  It requires an understanding of Italian to really enjoy her life story.

 The indispensable Wikipedia offers an excellent summary of the life and work of Lina Wertmüller. The movie Seven Beauties is available from your local DVD store, and from and Barnes and Noble.                       


EPISODE THIRTEEN will be published on Monday, April 8. There we will find our  little group of refugees huddled in the house of Herr Wachter as the bombs fall around them.  An Episode Fourteen is planned, but will be cancelled, of course,  if the refugees do not survive the bombing. So, watch for Episode Thirteen, which will appear a week from this Monday!

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