Seven Beauties (1975)

by | May 22, 2006 | DVD & Blu-ray Video Reviews | 0 comments

Seven Beauties (1975)

Directed by: Lina Wertmüller
Starring: Giancarlo Giannini, Fernando Rey
Studio: Koch Lorber Films DOV-3062
Video: 4:3 full screen, color
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, Italian or English options
Subtitles: English
Extras: Second disc long interview with Lina Wertmüller, Theatrical trailer
Length: feature – 116 minutes; bonus – 78 minutes
Rating: ****

This film, along with her Swept Away, is probably the best-known of the cheeky director who worked closely with Fellini and was greatly influenced by him but struck out on her own dealing with individual favorite issues – as illustrated by this controversial film.  Pasqualino of the very expressive eyes is called in his Naples neighborhood “Pasqualino Seven Beauties” because of his seven sisters  – few of which are in fact beauties. His job seems to be upholding the family’s code of honor while living off his sisters’ manual work, all the while preening and admiring himself in his white suit and hat as he strolls around and pinches comely derrieres.

He is driven to violence by a man seducing his oldest sister into prostitution via a fake promise of marriage. He kills the man and on a friend’s advice ships the subdivided body in suitcases all over Italy. He is caught and sentenced to an asylum. The courtroom scene is done entirely with music and closeups of the faces of the various women intercut with Pasqualino’s face – no dialog whatever.  Just when it appears he may get out of the asylum since he is sane, he rapes an inmate and in punishment is sent to fight with the Germans. He and a fellow soldier run away but are soon captured by the Germans and put in a concentration camp.

Although Wertmüller and her star Giannini can do superb comedy – however black –  the camp scenes are certainly not rehearsals for Roberto Benigni’s Life Is Beautiful! They are, in fact, extremely uncomfortable to watch. I found them harder to take than any of the scenes in Schindler’s List. Pasqualino plots to get out of the camp alive by seducing the cruel sadistic female officer in charge. When the Nazi nightmare is over and Pasqualino is back home in Naples once again, he finds that all his efforts to protect his family’s honor came to naught.

Seven Beauties was nominated for four Academy Awards and is a great film, but it’s easy to see that viewers may either love it or hate it. I saw it when it was released, and my faulty memory of it was that it was of a much lighter nature – more like Swept Away. Was I wrong! The restoration is excellent, with good detail in dark portions. The original score and Neapolitan songs are effective, and the Wertmüller interview will be most informative for her fans; perhaps telling the rest of us a bit more about her than we wanted to know.  It was interesting to see her, since I had no idea what she looked like.  Actually she looks like a character in one of Fellini’s party scenes.

– John Sunier 

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