[Film Review] Love and Anarchy (1973)

Love and Anarchy poster

English Title: Love and Anarchy
Original Title: Film d’amore e d’anarchia, ovvero ‘stamattina alle 10 in via dei Fiori nella nota casa di tolleranza…’
Year: 1973
Country: Italy
Language: Italian
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance
Director/Writer: Lina Wertmüller
Music: Nino Rota
Cinematography: Giuseppe Rotunno
Giancarlo Giannini
Mariangela Melato
Lina Polito
Eros Pagni
Pina Cei
Elena Fiore
Isa Bellini
Anna Bonaiuto
Roberto Herlitzka
Anna Melato
Isa Danieli
Enrica Bonaccorti
Josiane Tanzilli
Giuliana Calandra
Rating: 8.2/10

To live like a dog or to die like a dog? It is an elemental question hovering above the head of a disaffected but weak-minded farmer Tunin (Giannini), after his anarchist friend being murdered by fascist police, he decisively joins the anarchist camp, and takes up his dead friend’s cause, to kill Benito Mussolini. He arrives in Rome, and contacts his comrade Salomè (Melato), a premier prostitute in a brothel, who will assist to carry out his assassin plan. During a location scout with the unsuspecting Spatoletti (Pagni), the head of Mussolini’s police division, Tunin falls for a young working girl Tripolina (Polito), will the mutually spontaneous romance spoil Tunin’s determination of his action? Or, does it matter?

LOVE AND ANARCHY is Wertmüller’s seventh feature, which debuted in Cannes in competition and won Giannini BEST ACTOR award. It is the second teamwork for Wertmüller, Giannini and Mariangela Melato, after THE SEDUCTION OF MIMI (1972), and they would try a third time in SWEPT AWAY (1974) one year later.

Freckle-faced, disheveled, Tunin is an honest but slow-witted countryside man, hasn’t been to seaside before, he is not even a radical anarchist, but avenging the death of his friend, is the only thing he knows that can prove his worth, whether or not it is a suicidal mission. Fear is something he has to battle everyday, Giannini registers a viscerally soul-pulverizing performance as Tunin, downplays his masculine charm and portrays him as a sympathetic, the salt of the earth sort, a cog in the machine, but radiates with those attributes what make human human. Mariangela Melato’s Salomé, a spitfire driven by her own scores against the repressing government, is also superbly thrilling to behold, her piercing look, gravelly voice, worldly-wise flamboyance, and her unabashed camaraderie and affection towards Tunin, leaves a searing impact afterwards. A then 19-year-old Polito, a debutante in her full-fledged flapper outfit, thrusts herself into a more rational attempt to save her lover, only to no avail.

Wertmüller’s resplendent depiction of the Italian brothel is certainly inspired by aesthetics of Fellini school, and her taste for music is admirably impeccable as well, whether it is classical pieces like Debussy’s CLAIRE DE LUNE, or the catchy French ditty LA PETITE TONKINOISE by Vincent Scotto, together with Nino Rota’s sentimentally melodious score, emotionality and vivacity are eternally among the national spirits running in the Mediterranean blood of Italian people, not even the ominous subject matter and demoralizing situation can change its tonality.

Less heralded than Wermüller and Giannini’s most acclaimed collaboration SEVEN BEAUTIES (1975), which earned both Oscar nominations (yes, Wermüller is the first woman who has even been nominated for BEST DIRECTOR), LOVE AND ANARCHY is no less a fine-crafted equivalent which speaks loud about its filmmakers’ political slant and an outstanding melodrama can transfix its audience without compromising its thematic tragic.

Love and Anarchy 1973


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