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Retrospective on flamboyant Italian film director Lina Wertmuller

"It is not so terrible to be ridiculous - I am living proof of this point"

With films that are deliberately provocative, yet stylish and flamboyant, Italian director, Lina Wertmuller, was the first female to be nominated for the Best Director in the Academy Awards. She was highly acclaimed by critics, many of her films were remade by Hollywood and even Warner Brothers signed her to make films.

Ten distinguished titles, including her masterpieces "Swept Away", "Love and Anarchy" and "Seven Beauties" will be showcased at the Cinema of the Hong Kong Film Archive from August 6 to 14 and at the Lecture Hall of the Hong Kong Science Museum from August 13 to 22.

A seminar entitled "Lina Wertmuller - Love and Anarchy", to be conducted in Cantonese, is scheduled at 4.30pm on August 14 at the Cinema of the Film Archive.

Presented by the Film Programmes Office of the Leisure and Cultural Services Department and curated by Mr Law Wai-ming, the "Repertory Cinema 2004" will introduce the world's film classics to local audiences. Lina Wertmuller is the first director in focus. Works of Andrei Tarkovsky from Russia will be featured in October and Japan's Kenji Mizoguchi will be featured in December.

Always wearing a pair of white-frame glasses of the same style and with a bold and unconventional outlook, Wertmuller joined a roving puppet troupe and wrote drama scripts before she assisted film master Fellini in shooting the film "8 1/2". Before the film was finished, she left to make her first picture "The Lizards".

Wertmuller's films are very political, constantly criticising the left wing, the right wing, anti-fascism and even the mafia. She likes to criticise class contradictions and money politics, yet the intricate love stories and hilarious dialogue between lovers like political arguments make her films even more interesting.

The greatness about Wertmuller's pictures is the brilliant design of situation. Scenes in her films are weird, tragic and laughable, making her movies classics. When she was at the peak of her popularity, all her old films were shown at the same time in the US.

While her films endeavoured to expose the obscenity of man, their most interesting and outstanding part was, other than the gender and political conflicts, the creation of a human situation that transcended sex and class. She was able to depict the world in a compassionate manner.

The opening film "Swept Away" (1975) is Wertmuller's masterpiece. Hollywood had remade it twice, including "Six Days, Seven Nights" starring Harrison Ford in 1998 and Madonna in the original English title in 2002. But both remakes could never compare to the original. Each dialogue is a political statement, and the 'Blue Lagoon' kind of love story becomes Wertmuller's style of class struggle, with its simple storyline but interesting and involved dialogue.

Wertmuller's first film, "The Lizards" (1963), is quite similar to Fellini's "I Vitelloni", featuring fledgling teenagers who look for excitement in life.

Man's negative qualities are always the focus of Wertmuller's films. In her film "Let's Talk About Men" (1965), Nino Manfredi stars as a number of different characters to show man's greed and weakness.

Wertmuller becomes more sarcastic and critical of the behaviour of men in politics, sex and love after her growing popularity. "The Seduction of Mimi" (1972) tells how an Italian man struggles in a corrupt political environment but ends up gaining nothing.

With sentimental style and direct criticism of politics, Wertmuller became famous in the US through the film "Love and Anarchy" (1973). She was being regarded as a successor to Ingmar Bergman. The story portrays Mimi, an Italian played by Giancarlo Giannini, who fails to complete his mission to assassinate Mussolini. Giannini was awarded the Best Actor at the Cannes International Film Festival in 1973.

In "Seven Beauties" (1976), Mimi becomes a big brother and is responsible for taking care of his seven sisters. The film was nominated for four awards in Oscar, including the Best Foreign Language Film and Best Director.

"The End of the World" (1977) was Wertmuller's first production for Warner Brothers. It is a love story between an Italian man and an American woman. But the cultural shock makes the relationship tumultuous.

Is it only men who think about sex? "Softly... Softly" (1984) is a sexual comedy about a wife who falls in love with her best female friend after seven years of marriage.

"Summer Night" (1986) is almost like a second version of "Swept Away", but in a reverse situation between male and female characters. A female industrialist wreaks vengeance by abducting a Sicilian Mafia. "Camorra" (1985) is a film full of suspense with a shocked ending.

All films are in Italian with English subtitles. "Swept Away", "Love and Anarchy" and "The Lizards" will have Chinese subtitles.

Tickets priced at $50 are available at URBTIX outlets. Half-price tickets are available for senior citizens, people with disabilities, full-time students and Comprehensive Social Security Assistance recipients. There will be a 10% discount for each purchase of six to 10 tickets and a 20% discount for each purchase of 11 or more tickets.

For programme information, call 2734 2900 or visit . Reservations can be made by phone on 2734 9009 or on the Internet at .

Ends/Tuesday, July 27, 2004
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