Lina Wertmüller Andrew Sarris - Essay

Andrew Sarris

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Lina Wertmuller has nowhere to go but up after her ill-fated English-language movie, A Night Full of Rain …, but I am not sure how far up Blood Feud … actually gets. The plot is a kind of Sicilian Casablanca in the style of Seven Beauties with accompanying lectures on feminism, fascism, radical chic, abortion, machismo, and the contradictions between personal and political morality. The style of presentation oscillates between grand opera and Punch and Judy. From the beginning of her career, Wertmuller's artistic strategies have exhausted me more than they have entertained me….

By setting the film in the early period of Fascist rule in Italy, Wertmuller is able to transfigure characters who might otherwise be merely sordid and ridiculous in their flamboyantly carnal gropings, but I am a little suspicious of her facile equations of the Black Shirts and the Mafiosi. And by the time the gunplay reaches its ridiculous crescendo and the corpses are arranged in noble frescoes of big-star political allegory, I begin to get nostalgic for the good old days when Hollywood could dispense this kind of naive corn with much less self-consciousness…. [When the characters] begin to pontificate about life and politics and the paradoxes of the class struggle in Italy and America I do not feel that any of the half-baked rhetoric has been earned dramatically, cinematically, or psychologically. What I feel instead is that Lina Wertmuller seems to have been winging it as far back as I can remember.

Andrew Sarris, "Of Blood and Thunder and Despair," in The Village Voice (reprinted by permission of The Village Voice; copyright © News Group Publications, Inc., 1980), Vol. XXV, No. 8, February 25, 1980, p. 39.∗