Watching Lina Wertmuller
LIKE many members of Lina Wertmuller’s American audience, I saw Love and Anarchy before seeing any of her other films, though it wasn’t the first film she’d made. I remember coming away from Love and Anarchy feeling both impressed by the obvious talent at work in it and vaguely troubled by the sensibility that the film seemed flickeringly to reveal. Love and Anarchy told the story of Tunin, a country bumpkin, who, in the Italy of the 30′s, sets out to assassinate Mussolini. He goes to Rome, and, for the several days before the one on which he plans to strike, he’s aided by a whore who shares his anti-Fascist sympathies, and who arranges (under the guise of his being her cousin) for him to hang about her fancy brothel, taking meals there and, through her, getting to meet the chief of Mussolini’s security force who happens to be one of her best customers. But, while waiting for the targeted day to arrive, Tunin and another of the whores fall in love, and they decide to spend the last few days before his deed in romantic seclusion. When the day of the planned assassination arrives, his lover deliberately lets Tunin oversleep, and is supported in this act by the other whore, who also declares her love for Tunin. Tunin awakes, discovers what’s happened, and flies into a rage, alternately lashing out with words and fists at the women for their interference, and cowering in terror when he mistakes a routine police inspection of the brothel’s premises for a sign that the whores have betrayed him and that he’s about to be captured. Crying, “Long live anarchy!” he runs amok, shooting several policemen in the process, and finally breaking out into the street, where he shouts, “I wanted to kill Mussolini for all of you . . . so we could live in freedom….” He’s quickly and violently subdued by police and angry citizens. In the two brief scenes which end the film, we see him first being brutally interrogated by the security chief, and then in a prison cell, as two of the security-force agents burst in on him and savagely beat him to death.
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