Five reasons to check out Seven Beauties: The Films of Lina Wertmuller

A still from Seven Beauties (1975). It earned Italian director Lina Wertmüller an Academy Award nomination for Best Director.

Throughout September, Cinematheque is presenting a retrospective of work by Italian director Lina Wertmüller. All told, the series includes seven features and a documentary.

Here are five reasons to check out the program, which runs Sept. 8-25, and is presented in collaboration with with Vancouver’s Italian Cultural Centre.

1. She’s the first. Wertmüller is the first female director to be nominated for an Academy Award (the movie was Seven Beauties, in 1975). Jane Campion, Sofia Coppola, and Kathryn Bigelow are the only other female directors nominated (with Bigelow the first to win).

2. Long movie titles. Wertmüller is entered in the Guinness Book of Records for the longest film title: Un fatto di sangue nel comune di Siculiana fra due uomini per causa di una vedova. Si sospettano moventi politici. Amore-Morte-Shimmy. Lugano belle. Tarantelle. Tarallucci e vino. That 1979 movie, which features 179 characters, is better known under the international titles Blood Feud or Revenge.

3. She was once good enough for Saturday Night Live. There was a time when no public or pop culture figure was too obscure to be parodied on SNL. Or perhaps the show just assumed its audience knew its foreign film directors. Whatever the case, original cast member Laraine Newman impersonated the director twice on the show.

Laraine Newman as Lina Wertmuller on SNL in 1977. Here, she’s flanked by Truman Capote (John Belushi) and T. Lazlo de Wizzen (Julian Bond). Leonard Pinth-Garnell (Dan Ackroyd) is host of the panel, entitled Bad Cinema.

4. Restorations. Cinematheque is screening seven films, all in new restorations. The titles include the four movies she made with her most famous collaborator, matinee idol Giancarlo Giannini: Seven Beauties, Swept Away (remade as a 2002 vehicle for Madonna), The Seduction of Mimi (a sex-and-politics comedy), and Love and Anarchy (her first hit in North America). Other titles include All Screwed Up (more sex and politics), Summer Night (a battle-of-the-sexes comedy), and Ferdinando and Carolina (sex, politics, and Italian history).

The Seduction of Mimi.

5. Behind the White Glasses. In this 2015 doc about the director (now 89), Wertmüller “comes off as a tough old bird with a gangster’s croaky voice and an approach to life that’s much like her movies” (Variety).

The documentary Behind the White Glasses gives insight into famed Italian director Lina Wertmuller.

Seven Beauties: The Films of Lina Wertmuller runs Sept. 8-25. For more on the films and screenings visit thecinematheque.ca.

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