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Lina Wertmüller

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Lina Wertmüller
Wertmüller in 2000
Wertmüller in 2000
Arcangela Felice Assunta Wertmüller

(1928-08-14)14 August 1928
Died9 December 2021(2021-12-09) (aged 93)
Rome, Italy
Occupation(s)Film director, screenwriter
Years active1963–2021
Enrico Job
(m. 1965; died 2008)

Arcangela Felice Assunta Wertmüller OMRI (14 August 1928 – 9 December 2021), known as Lina Wertmüller (Italian: [ˈliːnavertˈmyller]), was an Italian film director and screenwriter.[1][2][3] She is best known for her 1970s art house films Seven Beauties,[4][5] The Seduction of Mimi,[6] Love and Anarchy, and Swept Away.

Wertmüller was the first female director to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Director.[7][8] She won many awards, including an Academy Honorary Award,[7][9][10] as well as a David di Donatello Career Achievement Award,[11] and was nominated for many others, including a Golden Globe Award,[12] two Academy Awards,[7] and two Palme d'Or awards.[1]

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Early life

Wertmüller was born Arcangela Felice Assunta Wertmüller in Rome, Lazio, in 1928,[13][14] to Federico, a lawyer from Palazzo San Gervasio, Basilicata, belonging to a devoutly Catholic family of distant Swiss descent, and to Maria Santamaria-Maurizio born in Rome. Wertmüller depicted her childhood as a period of adventure, during which she was expelled from 15 different Catholic high schools. During this time, she was infatuated with comic books,[15] and described them as especially influential on her in her youth, particularly Alex Raymond's character Flash Gordon. Wertmüller characterized the framing of Raymond's comics as "rather cinematic, more cinematic than most films",[16] an early indication of her inclination toward film. Wertmüller's desire to work in the film and theater industries took hold at a young age, as early on in life she developed an appreciation for the works of the Russian playwrights Pietro Sharoff, Vladimir Nemirovich-Danchenko, and Konstantin Stanislavsky,[16] drawing her into the world of performing arts.

After graduating from Accademia Nazionale di Arte Drammatica Silvio D'Amico in 1951, Wertmüller produced avant-garde plays, traveling throughout Europe and working as a puppeteer, stage manager, set designer, publicist, and scriptwriter for radio and television.[17] She joined Maria Signorelli's troupe in 1951.[18] These interests developed toward two generic avenues; one being the musical comedy and the other being grave, contemporary Italian dramas like the works of Italian playwright and director Giorgio De Lullo, whose work she described as "serious" and "politically conscious".[16] It is these two approaches that Wertmüller stated were at the core of her creative self, and always would be.[16][19]

Film career


After her years spent touring with an avant-garde puppet group, Wertmüller began to pursue a career in film. In the early 1960s, Flora Carabella, a school friend, introduced Wertmüller to her husband, the actor Marcello Mastroianni, who in turn introduced her to the film director Federico Fellini, who became her mentor.[20]

Wertmuller during the filming of I basilischi (1963)

Although The Basilisks, which was scored by Ennio Morricone, was critically well received, it did not garner the level of attention her later works did.[21] Throughout the 1960s, Wertmüller produced a series of films that were well liked but that failed to garner international success. Of these, her first collaboration with Giancarlo Giannini occurred in 1966's musical comedy Rita the Mosquito. Darragh O'Donoghue wrote in Cineaste that generally "her early films comprise a fairly straight pastiche of neorealism and early Fellini (The Lizards, 1963), an episodic comedy, two musicals, and a Spaghetti Western (The Belle Starr Story, 1968, directed under the pseudonym Nathan Wich), works where knowledge of generic predecessors was essential".[22]


The 1970s saw the release of virtually all of Wertmüller's most influential and highly regarded films, many of which featured Giannini. According to Geoffrey Nowell-Smith's Companion to Italian Cinema, 1972 "marked the beginning of Wertmüller's golden age".[23] Beginning in 1972 with The Seduction of Mimi, and continuing until 1978 with Blood Feud, Wertmüller released seven films, many of which are considered masterpieces of Commedia all'italiana. It was during this time she saw critical and international success, gaining traction as a filmmaker outside of Italy and in the United States on a scale that many of her contemporaries were unable to attain.

Wertmüller in 1972, from the magazine Radiocorriere TV

In 1975, the National Board of Review in the United States awarded Swept Away Top Foreign Film, and in 1976, Wertmüller became the first female director to be nominated for an Oscar, for Seven Beauties. This film, which again features Giannini in the lead role, pushes Wertmüller's specific brand of tragic comedy to its limits, following a self-obsessed Casanova from a small Italian town who is sent to a German concentration camp. The film initially met with controversy due to Wertmüller's frankness in her rendering of the apparatuses of genocide as well as her perceived macabre insensitivity toward its survivors,[citation needed] but since has been accepted as her masterwork.[24]

Wertmüller then signed a contract with Warner Bros. to make four films. The first was her first English-language film, A Night Full of Rain, which was entered into the 28th Berlin International Film Festival in 1978.[citation needed] The film was not a success and Warner canceled the contract.[25] Wertmüller also had creative differences with the studio and wanted more creative freedom.[26] In the same year, Wertmüller had another unsuccessful film Blood Feud, a mafia thriller starring Giannini, Marcello Mastroianni and Sophia Loren.

1980s & 1990s

Wertmüller's 1983 film A Joke of Destiny was entered into the 14th Moscow International Film Festival in 1985[27] and Camorra (A Story of Streets, Women and Crime) was entered into the 36th Berlin International Film Festival in 1986.[28] In 1985, she received the Women in Film Crystal Award for outstanding women who have helped to expand the role of women within the entertainment industry.[29]

After this period of acclaim, Wertmüller began to fade from international prominence, though she continued to release films well into the 1980s and '90s. Some of these films were sponsored by American financiers and studios, but failed to have the breadth of reach that her 1970s films achieved. These films are less widely seen and were neglected or disparaged by most, but Summer Night (1986) and Ferdinando & Carolina (1999) have since improved in reputation. Ciao, Professore (1992) is one of her few films of this period that was relatively well-received as the number 10 film in Italy that year.

Later life

Wertmüller in 2011

Wertmüller was married to Enrico Job (died 4 March 2008), an art designer who worked on several of her pictures.[30] They are survived by their daughter Maria Zulima (born 17 January 1991) who was an actress is a few of Wertmüller's films, including The Blue Collar Worker and the Hairdresser in a Whirl of Sex and Politics (1996), Ferdinando and Carolina (1999), Too Much Romance... It's Time for Stuffed Peppers (2004) and Mannaggia alla Miseria! (2009).[31]

In 2015, Wertmüller was the subject of a biographical film directed by Valerio Ruiz, Behind the White Glasses, in which she reflects on her life's work.[32] Wertmüller continued to work as a theater director,[25] until her death at her home on 9 December 2021, at the age of 93.[33][34][15]

Style and themes

Fellini's influence is evident in much of Wertmüller's work. They share empathy with the Italian working class, showing the realities of life for the politically neglected and economically downtrodden, with a tendency toward the preposterous.[35] Wertmüller's work also seems to exhibit adoration of Italy and its varied locales, beautifying elements of her film's locations with cinematography that presents its subjects with a colorful extravagance that idealizes the distinctly Italian settings of her films.[35] Her aesthetic borrows heavily from her background in theater, routinely using the camera to emphasize performance and the grandiose comedy of her characters’ near constant emotional frenzy. Much of her work uses formal film tactics to dramatize the misapplication and destructive qualities that political ideology can have on individuals, satirizing common conceptions of revolution and the political status quo in the process.[22]

Narrative and cinematic reflexivity are also commonplace in Wertmüller's films, as she rehashed and reconfigured signs and modes of presentation in a way that references her inspirations and her contemporaries.[22] This is made clear through her disruption of traditional conceptions of virtually all political dogma and the irrationality of her characters, taking recognizable elements of society and film and critiquing them by doing away with narrative and/or character plausibility.[22]

This is particularly evident in a film like The Seduction of Mimi. This positions Mimi (played by Giannini) as an impossibly inept and simple man who fully embodies the notion of Italian machismo, as he fumbles his way through a world that throws a variety of ideologies and economic positions at him, all of which he readily inhabits. Mimi is perpetually successful in his performance of these roles, despite the audience's awareness of their inauthenticity that results from a diegetic acknowledgement of Mimi's hapless ignorance. This element of critique in the film functions as one example of one of the most prevalent themes in Wertmüller's work, a desire to deconstruct and subvert the institutions and social ideologies of a capitalist modernity.[36] This socialist-inflected politicization of class and the institution are also extended to sexuality and gender. Most of her films deploy these elements in conjunction with her affection for the theatrical in such a way that creates a unique concoction that is undeniably within the generic confines of Commedia all’italiana.[citation needed] According to Peter Bondanella, "Wertmüller's work combined a concern with topical political issues and the conventions of traditional Italian grotesque comedy".[24]

Wertmüller is known for her whimsically prolix movie titles. For instance, the full title of Swept Away is Swept away by an unusual destiny in the blue sea of August. These titles were invariably shortened for international release. She is entered in the Guinness Book of Records for the longest film title. The previously mentioned Blood Feud[37] has the full name of Un fatto di sangue nel comune di Siculiana fra due uomini per causa di una vedova. Si sospettano moventi politici. Amore-Morte-Shimmy. Lugano belle. Tarantelle. Tarallucci e vino, which totals 179 characters.


Year Title Role Notes
2004 Too Much Romance... It's Time for Stuffed Peppers Writer, Director
1999 Ferdinando and Carolina
1996 The Blue Collar Worker and the Hairdresser in a Whirl of Sex and Politics
1996 The Nymph
1992 Ciao, Professore! [38]
1990 Saturday, Sunday and Monday
1989 The Tenth One in Hiding
1989 As Long as It's Love
1986 Summer Night, with Greek Profile, Almond Eyes and Scent of Basil [39][40]
1986 Camorra (A Story of Streets, Women and Crime) [41]
1984 Softly, Softly [42]
1983 A Joke of Destiny, Lying in Wait Around the Corner Like a Bandit [43]
1978 Blood Feud [44]
1978 The End of the World in Our Usual Bed in a Night Full of Rain
1975 Seven Beauties [5][45]
1974 Swept Away by an Unusual Destiny in the Blue Sea of August [45][46]
1974 All Screwed Up [47][45]
1973 Love and Anarchy [45][48]
1972 The Seduction of Mimi [6]
1968 The Belle Starr Story
1963 The Lizards [45]
1967 Don't Sting the Mosquito [45]
1966 Rita the Mosquito
1965 Let's Talk About Men [45]

Awards and nominations

Year Award Category Title Result Notes
2019 Academy Awards Academy Honorary Award Won [7]
2017 Boston Society of Film Critics Awards Best Rediscoveries Seven Beauties Won
2010 David di Donatello Awards Career Achievement Award Won [11]
2009 Golden Globes Italy Career Achievement Award Won
2008 Flaiano International Prizes Career Achievement Award Won
1986 Berlin International Film Festival Otto Dibelius Film Award Camorra (A Story of Streets, Women and Crime) Won
1985 Crystal Awards Won
1977 Golden Globe Awards Golden Globe Award for Best Foreign Language Film Seven Beauties Nominated [12]
Directors Guild of America Awards Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures Nominated
Academy Awards Best Original Screenplay Nominated [7]
Best Director Nominated [7]
1975 Tehran International Film Festival Golden Ibex Swept Away Won
National Board of Review Top Foreign Film Won
1973 Cannes Film Festival Palme d'Or Love and Anarchy Nominated [1]
1972 Cannes Film Festival Palme d'Or The Seduction of Mimi Nominated [1]
1964 Golden Goblets Italy Plate The Basilisk Won
1963 Locarno International Film Festival Silver Sail for Direction Won


  1. ^ a b c d "Lina WERTMÜLLER". Festival de Cannes. Archived from the original on 10 April 2023. Retrieved 10 April 2023.
  2. ^ Armitstead, Claire (7 March 2019). "Ninety and out to shock: meet the first ever Oscar nominated female director". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 9 April 2023.
  3. ^ Galloway, Stephen (25 October 2019). "History-Making Director Lina Wertmüller on Working With Fellini". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 9 April 2023.
  4. ^ CanBY, Vincent (22 January 1976). "'Seven Beauties, 'Wertmuller's Finest". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 9 April 2023.
  5. ^ a b Eder, Richard (23 January 1976). "Lina Wertmuller, Torrent of Paradox". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 9 April 2023.
  6. ^ a b Cocks, Jay (22 July 1974). "Cinema: Sexual Politics". Time. ISSN 0040-781X. Retrieved 9 April 2023.
  7. ^ a b c d e f "Academy Awards Search | Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences". Archived from the original on 9 April 2023. Retrieved 9 April 2023.
  8. ^ "A History of Female Best Director Nominees at the Academy Awards". Peoplemag. Retrieved 9 April 2023.
  9. ^ "Wertmuller to get career Oscar". ANSA English. Rome. 3 June 2019.
  10. ^ "Lina Wertmüller, first female directing nominee, will finally get her Oscar at 91". Los Angeles Times. 25 October 2019. Retrieved 9 April 2023.
  11. ^ a b "Accademia del Cinema Italiano - Premi David di Donatello". Archived from the original on 10 April 2023. Retrieved 10 April 2023.
  12. ^ a b "Seven Beauties". Golden Globes. Archived from the original on 10 April 2023. Retrieved 10 April 2023.
  13. ^ NOTE: Wertmüller's year of birth had been given as 1926 for many years. However, a majority of references now cite 1928, including [1] Archived 2018-07-31 at the Wayback Machine, [2], [[iarchive:womenfilmdirecto0000fost/page/n416|]], [3], [4], and [5]
    A few sources ([6], [7]) continue to cite 1926.
  14. ^ Giorgio Dell'Arti, Massimo Parrini, Catalogo dei viventi 2009 - voce Wertmüller Lina, Venezia, Marsilio Editori, 2008; ISBN 978-88-317-9599-9.
  15. ^ a b Smith, Harrison (9 December 2021). "Lina Wertmüller, provocative Italian filmmaker and first woman nominated for directing Oscar, dies at 93". The Washington Post.
  16. ^ a b c d Behind The White Glasses, Dir. Valerio Ruiz, Italy. 2015.
  17. ^ Foster, Gwendolyn Audrey (1995). Women Film Directors: An International Bio-Critical Dictionary. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 369–370. ISBN 0-313-28972-7. OCLC 32129920.
  18. ^ Martin, Jean, ed. (1995). Who's Who of Women in the Twentieth Century. Crescent Books. p. 155. ISBN 0-517-12027-5. OCLC 32528855.
  19. ^ Davis, Melton S. (6 March 1977). "'I Get Along Well With Wild Personalities'". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 9 April 2023.
  20. ^ Peter, Bradshaw (9 December 2021). "Lina Wertmüller: a thrilling live-wire who displayed a colossal black-comic daring". the Guardian. Retrieved 10 December 2021.
  21. ^ Bergan, Ronald (9 December 2021). "Lina Wertmüller obituary". The Guardian.
  22. ^ a b c d O'Donoghue 2018.
  23. ^ Nowell-Smith, Geoffrey (1996). The Companion to Italian Cinema. Cassell; British Film Institute. pp. 124–126. ISBN 0-304-34197-5. OCLC 35683590.
  24. ^ a b Bondanella 1990, p. 354.
  25. ^ a b Chu, Henry (February 2018). "Lina Wertmüller on What Being the First Female Director Nominated for an Oscar Means to Her". Variety. Retrieved 17 March 2019.
  26. ^ “Lina Wertmüller Obituary.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 9 Dec. 2021, Accessed 13 Mar. 2024.
  27. ^ "14th Moscow International Film Festival (1985)". MIFF. Archived from the original on 16 March 2013. Retrieved 17 February 2013.
  28. ^ "Berlinale: 1986 Programme". Retrieved 14 August 2015.
  29. ^ bea_xx. "Past Recipients". Archived from the original on 30 June 2011. Retrieved 26 October 2014.
  30. ^ Bergan, Ronald (9 December 2021). "Lina Wertmüller obituary". The Guardian.
  31. ^ "Maria Zulima Job | Actress". IMDb.
  32. ^ Pingitore, Silvia (22 June 2020). "Interview with Lina Wertmüller Academy Awards Honorary Oscar". Retrieved 22 June 2023.
  33. ^ "È morta Lina Wertmüller, grande protagonista del cinema italiano: aveva 93 anni". Corriere della Sera. 9 December 2021. Retrieved 9 December 2021.
  34. ^ Grimes, William (9 December 2021). "Lina Wertmüller, Italian Director of Provocative Films, Dies at 93". The New York Times. Retrieved 9 December 2021.
  35. ^ a b Jacobs & Riley 1976.
  36. ^ Bullaro, Grace. Man in Disorder: the Cinema Of Lina Wertmüller in the 1970s. Troubador Publishing. 2007.
  37. ^ "Longest title for a film". Guinness World Records.
  38. ^ Rainer, Peter (22 July 1994). "MOVIE REVIEW : 'Ciao, Professore' Rounds Up Lessons". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 9 April 2023.
  39. ^ Canby, Vincent (19 June 1987). "FILM: WERTMULLER 'NIGHT'". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 9 April 2023.
  40. ^ Thomas, Kevin (26 June 1987). "MOVIE REVIEW : 'SUMMER NIGHT': THE HEAT IS ON". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 9 April 2023.
  41. ^ Thomas, Kevin (4 October 1986). "MOVIE REVIEW : CHAOS REIGNS IN LINA'S 'CAMORRA'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 9 April 2023.
  42. ^ Maslin, Janet (1 November 1985). "SCREEN: TWOSOME IN 'SOTTO'". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 9 April 2023.
  43. ^ Canby, Vincent (12 September 1984). "FILM: 'JOKE OF DESTIN,' DIRECTED BY WERTMULLER". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 9 April 2023.
  44. ^ Maslin, Janet (22 February 1980). "Screen: 'Blood Feud' By Lina Wertmuller:Three Attitudes". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 9 April 2023.
  45. ^ a b c d e f g Kay, Karyn; Peary, Gerald, eds. (1977). Women and the Cinema: A Critical Anthology. Dutton. pp. 446–447. ISBN 0-525-47459-5. OCLC 3315936.
  46. ^ Canby, Vincent (18 September 1975). "'Swept Away' Is a Wertmuller Film With Solid Appeal". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 9 April 2023.
  47. ^ Canby, Vincent (15 January 1976). "Lina Wertmuller's Comedy of Foibles". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 9 April 2023.
  48. ^ Smith, Mark Chalon (5 April 1991). "MOVIE REVIEW : Hate Is Wrong Emotion for 'Love and Anarchy'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 9 April 2023.


External links

This page was last edited on 22 May 2024, at 22:17
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