"Love and Anarchy," which starts the UC Irvine Film Society's "Offbeat Comedy" series tonight, is credited with putting director Lina Wertmuller's career in fast motion. It also raised her profile in another way--feminists hated the film, and Wertmuller was branded a traitor to her sex thereafter.
Although her earlier "The Seduction of Mimi" was lauded by critics, "Love and Anarchy" received big-time international attention after its 1973 release. Despite knocks by female activists, Wertmuller had taken a leap from under Fellini's shadow, where she had been since her apprenticeship as his assistant director on such movies as "8 1/2."
The film follows Tunin (played by Wertmuller's usual leading man, Giancarlo Giannini), an idealistic bumpkin with a taste for anarchy, as he stumbles forward in a plan to assassinate Mussolini and topple the fascist government. His handmaiden in this alternately slapstick and desperate adventure is Salome (Mariangela Melato, another Wertmuller staple), a mouthy prostitute and closet revolutionary. Their headquarters is a bawdy Rome bordello populated by a lusty mix of characters.
It's this harem of hookers that got Wertmuller into trouble. Feminists bristled at the way she presents them, how her camera (in Fellini-esque ways) settles on their exposed bodies, distorting breasts, hips and legs. Their wantonness is as ripe as it gets.