In the 1970s, Italian director Lina Wertmüller was a certifiable international phenomenon- a lively firebrand behind white glasses who became of the decade’s marquee-name filmmakers. Her hot-button movies – erotic and polemic and provocative all at once – became must-see conversation pieces and smashed American box-office records for foreign language films. New York Magazine put her on the cover, emblazoned with the headline, “The Most Important Film Director Since Ingmar Bergman.” Her controversial Seven Beauties earned four Oscar nominations, including one for Best Director, making her the first woman ever nominated for that award.
“I am a director. I am the one who can order men around.” – Lina Wertmüller
Pauline Kael, Molly Haskell and Ellen Willis, meanwhile, savaged her politics (Misogynist? Genius?). She vexed interviewers with her mischievously contradictory proclamations, frustrating her supporters and confirming the opinions of her detractors. By her own account, Wertmüller got herself kicked out of a least a dozen Catholic schools as a rebellious student; antagonizing people came naturally to her. For a filmmaker who garnered so much attention, raised so much ire, and inspired so many, Wertmüller’s oeuvre is (surprisingly) rarely screened and discussed today. But decades removed from the height of her critical and commercial peak, her daring, unapologetically politically incorrect films – where sex and politics are inextricably bound together – and her thorny, vulgar, defiantly funny worldview, look more essential than ever. This October, The Loft Cinema is proud to present new digital restorations of four of Lina Wertmüller’s greatest and rarely-screened films, offering a glimpse into the unique world of this extraordinary cinematic trailblazer.