Lina Wertmuller’s fifth feature is a wild and darkly hilarious picaresque yarn set during World War II. The story centres on buffoonish anti-hero Pasquelino (frequent collaborator Giancarlo Giannini), a small time Neapolitan crook and ladies’ man whose life story is revealed in a series of flashbacks. After an attempt to defend his sister’s honour goes awry, Pasquelino is forced to enlist in the army to avoid jail and through a series of unfortunate events ends up in a Nazi prison camp where he is forced to desperate measures in order to survive. Provocative and unhinged, Seven Beauties is a testament to the director’s audacity, a savage skewering of fascism, machismo and complacency that still retains the power to shock.
Seven Beauties is part of both our Feminist Film Club and our Best Pictures Season, celebrating some of the best prize-winners (and most controversial near misses) from the history of the Academy Awards.
Prolific Italian director Lina Wertmüller has directed 24 features across a five decade career, but is best known to English language audiences for being the first woman ever to be nominated for the Best Director Oscar. It’s an honour that remains all too rare. 45 years later, just four other women share the distinction, and only one – Kathryn Bigelow – has ever won.
Nominated for: Best Director (Lina Wertmüller), Best Actor (Giancarlo Gianinini), Best Original Screenplay, Best Foreign Language Film