American art house success led to Wertmller being compared to Bergman and Fellini, but as Seven Beauties confirms, it is her taste for a vaguely intellectualised sado-masochism which aroused middle class American enthusiasm. The film recounts the picaresque adventures of a pop-eyed Italian shark (Giannini) who lives off women, is institutionalised for killing in defence of his honour, 'rehabilitated' by army service after committing rape in the asylum, and ends up facing the problem of survival in a Nazi concentration camp. Much of it is fifth-rate slapstick, decked out in gaudy sub-Ken Russell style with the occasional interpolation of gruesome or violent images, plus some nudgingly insistent music. There is a lingering climax in which he steels himself to seduce the pig-like woman Commandant of the concentration camp (awesomely played by Shirley Stoler of The Honeymoon Killers); his subsequent sexual debasement is memorable, but in such an uninspiring context it reeks of artifice.
Cast and crew
Piero Di Iorio