Lina Wertmüller Raymond Durgnat - Essay

Raymond Durgnat

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Lina Wertmuller's The Lizards explores the urgent, if familiar, problem of the sloth and paralysis of the Italian South, the encrusted feudalism and snide Fascism….

Because it's a good film let's tot up the debit side first, to get it over with. First of all the film hasn't enough to say that's new if one's seen I Vitelloni or I Nuovi Angeli; it's a more sensitive, more prolonged evocation, with a tinge of pessimistic irony. Second, Lina Wertmuller, like others in Italy's new wave of neo-neo-realism …, sometimes indulges a slowpaced aestheticism that saps the vitality of the story….

Having said which, let's add that The Lizards has the virtues of its faults, and in abundance, developed to the nth degree of refinement. There are images so beautiful and so simple that one literally catches one's breath. The director has the quite uncanny precision, the magical control over location, of Agnes Varda….

In its more intimate vignettes, the film easily has the edge on Visconti—the huddle of snoring bodies in a crowded room, a snoozing youth with legs jack-knifed up on a doorstep, a fat Momma cutting her husband's toenails while he monologues about the idleness of the rising generation…. (p. 30)

Something of an onlooker's film, it's a real delight for the connoisseur. (p. 31)

Raymond Durgnat, "'The Lizards'" (© copyright Raymond Durgnat 1964; reprinted with permission), in Films and Filming, Vol. 11, No. 1, October, 1964, pp. 30-1.