Wednesday, June 14, 2017

All Screwed Up (1974)

          Another frenetic and noisy movie from Italian director Lina Wertmüller, whose films usually blend radical politics and social satire in challenging ways, All Screwed Up suffers for either a deficiency or an overabundance of plot, depending on how you view these things. Instead of a clear linear storyline with momentum, the picture contains a number of interconnected episodes, with a large group of characters gradually converging to form a community. It’s never difficult to track what’s happening, but it is difficult to understand why X event is shown as opposed to Y event. One gets the sense of Wertmüller barreling through her subject matter, stopping every time something catches her attention, and then barreling forward again once she’s lost interest. And yet at the same time, there’s a vague sense of an overall narrative plan, leading up to the politically charged statement of the final scenes. Plus, because a character remarks that life is “all screwed up” at one point—while lamenting the seemingly pointless cycle of working for a living—it’s tempting to define the movie as a simple criticism of bourgeoisie ideals. Chances are Wertmüller was after something more complicated than that.
          In any event, the film begins when two country bumpkins, Gino (Luiigi Diberti) and Carloetto (Nino Bergamini), arrive in the big city of Milan to start a new life. They soon encounter Adelina (Sara Rapisarda), a hysterical young woman also newly arrived and looking for her cousin. So begins the process of the bumpkins building a surrogate family. Much is made of the leading characters’ naïveté, so, for instance, a friendly hustler talks them into buying a stolen bike. Later, as the bumpkins crash and burn at various demeaning jobs, one of them tries his hand at robbery by assisting a crook during a break-in. (This occasions one of the movie’s funniest moments, because the bumpkin gets nervous about upsetting objects in the immaculate home they’re robbing: “It’s a pity to make such a mess—these people are so neat!”) Lots of other stuff happens, too. A friend of the bumpkins freaks out because his wife keeps having kids, including quintuplets, and yet the friend has a meltdown when his wife tries to refuse sex.
          Speaking of sex, Carletto becomes involved with Adelina, then resents that she won’t sleep with him for religious reasons, so he takes a friend’s advice and rapes her. (“Now you’ll be a little quieter,” he says afterward.) All Screwed Up gets uglier as it goes along, with Wertmüller’s twisted gender politics resulting in a barrage of mixed messages. And if you can tell me what the scene of a gangster demanding that an enemy’s car get “encased in moldy shit” has to do with anything, then you made a whole lot more sense of All Screwed Up than I did. The picture addresses many relevant themes, including aspiration and class and gender and greed and marriage and working conditions, but for me, the experience of watching the picture was so disjointed and unpleasant that I lost the will to search for deeper meanings—even though I’m confident they’re hidden somewhere.

All Screwed Up: FUNKY

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