Magnetic Disorder: Film Retrospective of Lina Wertmüller

Venue: Louis Koo Cinema, Hong Kong Arts Centre  
Date: 2022.11.03 - 2022.11.25
Price: HK$80 / HK$64* 

1st Woman Nominated for Best Director at the Oscars

"I prefer creative disorder to strict rules." - Lina Wertmüller

Lina Wertmüller was the first female filmmaker to be nominated for Best Director at the Oscars, but Wertmüller was far from part of the filmmaking establishment. After all, her films were too provocative, too crass, too politically incorrect, and too outspoken. Often blending gender dynamics, sex, class and political ideologies in a volatile mix, Wertmüller’s films burst at the seams with explosive passion, wit and melancholy, refusing to be pigeonholed into genre and ideological borders. Her films were always uniquely her own, without taking any side in political and gender debate. Though she was daring enough to tackle sensitive issues, she had much preferred seeing opposites clash than advocating for a single ideal. 

Wertmüller was a celebrated, but divisive figure who had an equal share of fervent supporters – notoriously harsh film critic John Simon once called Wertmuller “the most important film director since Bergman” – and detractors who hated her bombastic filmmaking style, but it was clear that the maestra would not have had it any other way.   

To commemorate Lina Wertmüller’s passing in 2021, this programme is screening a selection of her works and a documentary about her life and artistic achievements. The films will be accompanied by after-screening talks.  

Tickets are now available on POPTICKET.hk.

 

Programme Schedule

3/11 (Thur)   7:45pm The Seduction of Mimi 
4/11 (Fri) 7:45pm The Basilisks
5/11 (Sat) 4:15pm Let's Talk About Men 
5/11 (Sat) 7:45pm Seven Beauties  
6/11 (Sun) 2:30pm Love and Anarchy
6/11 (Sun) 7:45pm The Belle Starr Story
8/11 (Tue) 7:45pm Swept Away  
9/11 (Wed) 7:45pm Behind the White Glasses
10/11 (Thur) 7:45pm A Night Full of Rain 
11/11 (Fri) 7:45pm All Screwed Up
12/11 (Sat) 2:30pm Seven Beauties
12/11 (Sat) 7:45pm Swept Away  
15/11 (Tue) 7:45pm The Seduction of Mimi
16/11 (Wed) 7:45pm Love and Anarchy
22/11 (Tue) 7:45pm All Screwed Up
23/11 (Wed) 7:45pm The Basilisks
24/11 (Thur) 7:45pm Ciao, Professore!
25/11 (Fri) 7:45pm Behind the White Glasses

 

Magnetic Disorder: Film Retrospective of Lina Wertmüller: Programme Details

The Basilisks

The Basilisks
I basilischi

Award
Best Feature Film, Locarno International Film Festival 1963

Director: Lina Wertmüller
Cast:  Antonio Petruzzi, Stefano Satta Flores, Flora Carabella
Italy | 1963 | 84’ | In Italian with English subtitles | DCP | B&W

4/11 (Fri) - 7:45pm
23/11 (Wed) - 7:45pm

Antonio, Francesco, and Sergio are three unemployed young men living in a small, sleepy southern Italian town. They often talk about leaving, but their apathy keeps them trapped in their surroundings. Instead, they spend their days wandering the streets and hitting on women. Antonio eventually moves to Rome for a new cosmopolitan life after an invitation by his aunt, but his friends and his old way of life eventually pull him back.

Lina Wertmüller’s directorial debut is not only the sum of her experiences as an assistant director for her mentor Federico Fellini; it is also a film that firmly belongs in the esteemed school of Italian neorealism films. It is a nuanced and sometimes darkly playful portrait of southern Italy (where her father was from) and in particular, a place that had yet to be touched by modernity. Featuring a score by the legendary Ennio Morricone.

 

Lets Talk About Men

Let's Talk About Men
Questa volta parliamo di uomini

Award
Best Actor, Italian National Syndicate of Film Journalists 1966

Director: Lina Wertmüller
Cast: Nino Manfredi, Luciana Paluzzi, Margaret Lee
Italy | 1965 | 92’ | In Italian with English subtitles | DCP | B&W

5/11 (Sat) - 4:15pm

A businessman with a kleptomaniac wife, a less-than-accurate knife-thrower, a self-proclaimed intelligent man and an ungrateful husband in a small town make up the four stories in Lina Wertmüller’s second feature film, an anthology comedy about misbehaving men and the poor women who put up with them. Aside from the common themes, all four stories star legendary actor Nino Manfredi in the lead roles.

Long before her career went into full swing in the 1970’s, Wertmüller had already begun playing with some of her favorite themes. With four hilariously outlandish and macabre stories about misogyny and masculinity, Let’s Talk About Men is often seen as Wertmüller’s response to Ettore Scola’s Let’s Talk About Women (1966), a nine-episode anthology film with problematic gender politics in its attitude towards women. Though the film was a roaring act of girl power at the time, it still features Wertmüller’s trademark cheeky humour on full display.

 

The Belle Starr Story

The Belle Starr Story
La storia di Belle Starr (Il mio corpo per un poker)

Director: Lina Wertmüller
Cast: Elsa Martinelli, Robert Woods, George Eastman
Italy | 1968 | 103’ | In Italian with English subtitles | Digital | Colour

6/11 (Sun) - 7:45pm

Belle Starr can play gamble and shoot just as well as all the men around her, but she actually has a tragic past: After her uncle killed her parents, she is rescued by an outlaw that she is in love with. But when that relationship also goes sour, she roams the wild west, untrusting of any men that comes her way. One day, she meets Larry Blackie at the gambling table and enters a love-and-hate relationship with him that, like all great westerns, eventually involves a heist.

Though credited as Nathan Wich, Wertmüller broke tradition by becoming the only women to have directed a Spaghetti Western with this unabashedly feminist tale of outlaw love. Wertmüller replaces the almost homoerotic relationships between male characters in traditional westerns with an actual physical relationship expressed through sexual acts. Spitting, shooting and riding horses like a cowboy, star Elsa Martinelli has rollicking fun as the real-life heroine.

 

The Seduction of Mimi

The Seduction of Mimi
Mimì metallurgico ferito nell'onore

Awards
Special Award and Best Actor, David di Donatello Awards 1972
Best Actor and Best New Actress, Golden Goblets (Italy) 1972
Best Breakthrough Actor and Best Breakthrough Actress, Golden Globes Awards 1973
Best Actor and Best Actress, Italian National Syndicate of Film Journalists 1973

Nomination
Palme d'Or, Cannes Film Festival 1972

Director: Lina Wertmüller
Cast: Giancarlo Giannini, Mariangela Melato
Italy | 1972 | 112’ | In Italian with English subtitles | DCP | Colour

3/11 (Thur) - 7:45pm
15/11 (Tue) - 7:45pm 

After he is fired for not voting for the mafia during the local election, staunchly principled labourer Mimi flees from his home in Sicily to Turin. In the city, he ends up working for the local mafia and falling in love with a street vendor. As he tries to juggle his two families at once, Mimi also sees his principles giving way to his pride and the need to stay alive.

Considered one of Wertmüller’s masterpieces, this knotty comedy sees the filmmaker finding the perfect sweet spot where politics, gender dynamics and romance intersect. A scathing critique of machismo told from the perspective of a hypocritical, yet likeable lout, the film puts its anti-hero through one excruciatingly funny situation after another until he finally gets his just desserts. In addition to another great comic performance by Giancarlo Giannini, Mariangela Melato also shines as Mimi’s devoted mistress.

 

Love and Anarchy

Love and Anarchy
Amore e anarchia (Film d'amore e anarchia)

Awards
Best Actor, Cannes Film Festival 1973
Best New Actress, Golden Goblets (Italy) 1973
Best Actor and Best New Actress, Italian National Syndicate of Film Journalists 1974

Nominations
Palme d'Or, Cannes Film Festival 1973
Best Original Story, Italian National Syndicate of Film Journalists 1974
Best Actress, New York Film Critics Circle Awards 1974

Director: Lina Wertmüller
Cast: Giancarlo Giannini, Mariangela Melato
Italy, France | 1973 | 126’ | In Italian with English subtitles | DCP | Colour

6/11 (Sun) - 2:30pm
16/11 (Wed) - 7:45pm 

During Italy’s Fascist rule, Tunin takes up a mission to assassinate dictator Benito Mussolini after learning that his friend was killed by the secret police. Arriving in Milan, Tunin meets his handler Salomè, who works as a prostitute in a brothel. In the brothel, Tunin also meets Tripolina, another prostitute, and falls head over heels for her. Suddenly, Tunin finds himself caught between love and his duty to his late friend.

One of Lina Wertmüller’s most successful films, this vibrant tragicomedy sees the filmmaker balancing a biting satire about masculinity and radical political ideology against a surprisingly sweet romance set amidst one of the darkest periods in Italy’s history. Donning adorable freckles for his empathetic performance as the reborn anarchist, Giancarlo Giannini was awarded Best Actor at the 1973 Cannes Film Festival for this film.

 

All Screwed Up

All Screwed Up
Tutto a posto e niente in ordine

Director: Lina Wertmüller
Cast: Luigi Diberti, Nino Bignamini
Italy | 1974 | 105’ | In Italian with English subtitles | DCP | Colour

11/11 (Fri) - 7:45pm
22/11 (Tue) - 7:45pm 

Gigi and Carletto, two Southern country boys who travel north to get work in Milan. Arriving with nothing but the clothes on their backs, they join the labour movement and live in a communal home with other migrant workers, including some combative love interests. Their dreams of wealth devolve into a series of slapstick adventures, from an uproarious attempt at petty crime to the daily indignities of life in a restaurant kitchen.

In true Lina Wertmüller style, this outrageous tragicomedy takes a cynical approach to the fish out of water formula, depicting city life as an endlessly despairing rat race that forces everyone to prioritise money over all things. It shows that the hyper-commercialism of urban life corrupts everyone in different ways. However, Wertmüller’s manic approach to the material employs slapstick humor to keep a sharp focus on satire instead of tragedy, resulting in a buoyantly funny film that seems to be an intentional antithesis to the sobering tone of Italian neorealist films.

 

Swept Away

Swept Away
Travolti da un insolito destino nell'azzurro mare d'agosto

Awards
Best Music, David di Donatello Awards 1975
Top Foreign Films, National Board of Review, USA 1975
Golden Ibex and Best Actress, Tehran International Film Festival 1975

Nominations
Best Film, Best Director and Best Screenplay, New York Film Critics Circle Awards 1975

Director: Lina Wertmüller
Cast: Giancarlo Giannini, Mariangela Melato
Italy | 1974 | 115’ | In Italian with English subtitles | DCP | Colour

8/11 (Tue) - 7:45pm
12/11 (Sat) - 7:45pm 

While vacationing on a yacht with her friends, rich woman Raffaella’s loud and arrogant rants on politics and class irritate Gennarino, a deckhand who happens to be a devout communist. When Raffaella forces Gennarino to take her out to sea near sunset, they get stranded in the middle of the sea. After landing on an island, Gennarino realises that he is now the dominant one and takes his revenge.

Wertmüller’s most commercially successful – and her most divisive – film, this island survival film is a clever and acerbic comedy about class warfare disguised as a romantic comedy. Unabashedly politically incorrect and feral in its depiction of unbridled sexuality, the film still sparks debate about its depiction of the proletariat’s revenge and sexual violence. Giancarlo Giannini and Mariangela Melato are amazing as the island “lovers”, gamely taking on everything that Wertmüller puts them through. 

 

Seven Beauties

Seven Beauties
Pasqualino Settebellezze

Awards
Best Rediscoveries, Boston Society of Film Critics Awards 2017
Best New Actress, Golden Goblets (Italy) 1976

Nominations
Best Director, Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen, Best Actor in a Leading Role and Best Foreign Language Film, Academy Awards 1977
Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures, Directors Guild of America 1977
Best Film, Faro Island Film Festival 1975
Best Foreign Film, Golden Globes 1977
Best Film, Best Director and Best Screenplay, New York Film Critics Circle Awards 1977

Director: Lina Wertmüller
Cast: Giancarlo Giannini, Fernando Rey
Italy | 1975 | 117’ | In Italian with English subtitles | DCP | Colour

5/11 (Sat) - 7:45pm
12/11 (Sat) - 2:30pm 

After deserting the Italian army during World War II, Pasqualino is captured and sent to a German concentration camp run by a sadistic female commandant. Meanwhile, he recalls his days back in Naples, when he was a small-time hood who was obsessed about protecting the honour of his seven sisters. When he kills a pimp for turning one of his sisters into a prostitute, Pasqualino goes on a journey that will take every ounce of his street smarts.

The film that earned Lina Wertmüller her Oscar nomination – the first ever for a female filmmaker – is a darkly funny portrait of a truly despicable opportunist who mistakes toxic machismo for honour. Rather than presenting a hero story typical of its setting and genre, Wertmüller’s masterpiece about the futility of honour against the desperation for survival stares at tragedy with a sly smirk instead of a cry for help.

 

A Night Full of Rain

A Night Full of Rain
La fine del mondo nel nostro solito letto in una notte piena di pioggia

Nomination
Best Director, Golden Berlin Bear, Berlin International Film Festival 1978

Festival
Berlin International Film Festival 1978

Director: Lina Wertmüller
Cast: Giancarlo Giannini, Candice Bergen
Italy, USA | 1978 | 104’ | In English with no subtitles | Digital | Colour

10/11 (Thur) - 7:45pm 

Over a rainy night, communist Italian journalist Paolo and his liberal American photographer wife Lizzy argue, make love and recall their tumultuous courtship in their home. Their story began years ago in a small Italian village, when Paolo rescued Lizzy from a hostile situation. After clashing over political beliefs, Paolo failed to seduce Lizzy, but things would change when they met again years later in San Francisco.

Though this was Lina Wertmüller’s first English-language production, the director made the film with a largely Italian crew, including her beloved leading man Giancarlo Giannini. Despite the challenges of working in English, Wertmüller produced another signature Wertmüller romance in which politics, love, lust and gender dynamics are blended in a powerful toxic relationship portrait that is at once sexy, provocative and playfully chaotic.

 

1978 WBEI

Ciao, Professore!
Io speriamo che me la cavo

Nomination
Best Supporting Actress, Italian National Syndicate of Film Journalists 1993

Festival
Toronto International Film Festival 1993

Director: Lina Wertmüller
Cast: Paolo Villaggio, Isa Danieli, Michael Tucker
Italy | 1992 | 96’ | In Italian with English subtitles | Digital | Colour

24/11 (Thur) - 7:45pm

Due to incompetence in the Ministry of Education, a proud Italian language teacher from the North is accidentally transferred to a school in a poverty-stricken southern village. While he awaits a new transfer back to greener pastures, he finds a mess of a school where the kids skip school for work and the janitor rules the school with his mafia connection. But by winning over the leader of his class, the teacher eventually begins to connect to his students.

Though its edges are blunter than her previous films, Lina Wertmüller pokes gentle fun at her father’s home region and the Italian education system with this enjoyable ode to great teachers. Based on a bestselling collection of essays by the students of a primary school teacher, Wertmüller’s take on the likes of Stand and Deliver is delightfully farcical and surprisingly sweet.

 

Behind the White Glasses

Behind the White Glasses
Dietro gli occhiali bianchi

Award
Audience Choice Award, Syracuse International Film Festival 2016

Nominations
Best Documentary About Cinema, Italian National Syndicate of Film Journalists 2016
Best Documentary on Cinema, Venice Film Festival 2015

Festival
Venice Film Festival 2015

Director: Valerio Ruiz
Cast: Lina Wertmüller, John Simon, Massimo Wertmüller
Italy | 2015 | 112’ | In English and Italian with English and Italian subtitles | DCP | Colour

9/11 (Wed) - 7:45pm
25/11 (Fri) - 7:45pm

Named after Lina Wertmüller’s signature white glasses, Valerio Ruiz’s documentary is an ode to the sometimes-divisive filmmaker and a comprehensive career retrospective to an iconic filmmaker. Featuring interviews with the likes of her favourite leading man Giancarlo Giannini, her former producer, director Martin Scorsese, veteran film critic John Simon and many more, the film covers Wertmüller’s start in the industry, how she worked with her mentor, Federico Fellini, on the iconic 8 ½, her most renowned films and the things that drive her playful and sometimes manic creative engine. Wertmüller herself also appears to comment on her own films and take the audience on a tour of the home that she once shared with her late husband and longtime collaborator Enrico Job. This is an essential watch for anyone who has enjoyed any of Wertmüller’s films.

 

 

Co-Presenter: Hong Kong Arts Centre, Italian Cultural Institute Hong Kong & Macau

In collaboration with: Consulate General of Italy in Hong Kong

Associated programme: Italy-China Year of Culture and Tourism, Italia Mia

 


Tickets are now available on POPTICKET.hk.

 

Ticket Price: $80 / $64*

All Access Pass (one ticket each for all 11 programmes) - 30% off discount: $671 (service charge included)

 

*20% off discount for full-time students, senior citizens aged 60 or above, people with disabilities and the minder and Comprehensive Social Security Assistance (CSSA) recipients. Tickets for CSSA recipients available on a first-come-first-served basis. Concessionary ticket holders must produce evidence of their identity or age upon admission.

*20% discount to HKAC members. Ticket holders must present a valid membership card upon admission.

*20% discount for each purchase of 4 or more standard tickets.

*Group booking offer for each purchase of 20 or more tickets. For details, please refer to https://bit.ly/3Sg4EJ3

*Only one discount offer could be applied to each ticket purchase.

About Lina Wertmüller

Some film critics say that they could never quite figure out Lina Wertmüller’s politics, because her films seemed to lampoon everyone. For that, she was a divisive figure for film critics and audiences.

In fact, Wertmüller was already a troublemaker in her youth. She admitted that she was expelled from 15 Catholic high schools and called her childhood “a period of adventure”. It seemed that Wertmüller never stopped being mischievous.

In the early 1960’s, Wertmüller was introduced to director Federico Fellini. Though uncredited, Wertmüller then worked on Fellini’s 8 ½ as an assistant director, officially starting her career in filmmaking. While her debut film The Basilisks (1963) felt more influenced by Italian neorealism than Fellini, she created a unique brand of mixing sexual politics and ideological politics with The Seduction of Mimi (1972). She finally had her first bona-fide hit with comedy Swept Away (1974), a politically incorrect class war comedy disguised as an adventure romance. After Wertmüller became the first woman to be nominated for a Best Director Oscar with Seven Beauties (1976), she became so famous that American comedy skit show Saturday Night Live did a parody of her in-your-face Italian auteur persona, white glasses and all.

After a foray into Hollywood with A Night Full of Rain (1978), Wertmüller returned to Italy, where she remained a prolific filmmaker until the late 2000’s. However, Wertmüller was more than a filmmaker. She was a true renaissance artist who also worked as a puppeteer, a songwriter and a theater director.

During the course of her career, she was nominated for the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival twice, won the Otto Dibelius Film Award at the Berlin Film Festival for A Story of Streets, Women and Crime, the Women in Film Crystal Award, as well as lifetime achievement awards from Italy’s David di Donatello Awards, the Golden Globes and the Academy Awards. She even has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Though her later films did not reach the popularity of her 1970’s films, she remained true to herself, even if it meant having a lifetime of adventure. 


Programmes are subject to change without prior notice.

The following measures will be implemented for screenings, to combat the prevailing threat of Novel Coronavirus:

  • All audience must wear face masks and comply with the requirements and restrictions announced by the Government
  • No smoking, eating and drinking. Unauthorised photo-taking, audio and/or video recording is strictly forbidden
  • Staff have the right to deny the admission of any person with temperature higher than 37.5°C
 
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