Lina Wertmüller Penelope Gilliatt - Essay

Penelope Gilliatt

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

["Swept Away by an Unusual Destiny in the Blue Sea of August"] is a very Marxist film, beneath its complexion of comedy. Who belongs to whom? Is it the now unpaid wage earner to the rich employer separated from any bank? Or is it the burdensome complainer to the amused survivalist? The tenaciously habitual in arrogance to the newborn in command? The one who feels the greater need to the one who feels the freer?

Neither belongs to the other, says Lina Wertmüller, with characteristic political skepticism about emotional combat. (p. 94)

Lina Wertmüller's fine film is apparently a simple parable about a social irony, like J. M. Barrie's "The Admirable Crichton," in which the butler in a shipwrecked party of aristocrats is eventually called Gov because he is the most capable person. But "Swept Away by an Unusual Destiny in the Blue Sea of August" is about more than token amusements of paradox. It is about certain things' being swept away. The man, cast socially as a servant, regains in his native state his born worth, but he loses his heart; the woman, cast socially as the boss, is forced to admit her subservience, but as soon as she rejoins her husband and friends she loses her acquired pliancy. In other words, the hero is swept away by her. (pp. 94-5)

Penelope Gilliatt, "Vivid Doldrums," in The New Yorker (© 1975 by The New Yorker Magazine, Inc.), Vol. LI, No. 31, September 22, 1975, pp. 94-5.