The Seduction of Mimi [Mimì metallurgico ferito nell’onore]

(Italy 1972)

I never heard of Lina Wertmüller until a retrospective of her work showed at a theater near me. The Seduction of Mimi [Mimì metallurgico ferito nell’onore] is an excellent starting point because it’s a textbook example of her style and the themes that inspire her. Plus, it’s an entertaining movie.

Mimi (Giancarlo Giannini) is a laborer in Sicily. His trouble begins after he votes for the communist candidate in a local election—his employer has been pushing its employees to vote for the mafia candidate. The ballot is supposed to be secret, but Mimi learns that it isn’t when he’s fired. Fearing that things will get complicated, he leaves his wife, Rosalia (Agostina Belli), behind and skips town.

Mimi ends up in Turin, where he finds work on an illegal construction site. He witnesses an on-the-job fatality and proves to be a problem when he learns that the mafia bosses running the job plan to dump the body. To keep him quiet, they place him in a union job at a factory.

It isn’t long before Mimi meets the alluring Fiorella (Mariangela Melato) selling sweaters on the street. He’s hooked on her; in fact, he knocks her up and she gives birth to a son. This is where The Seduction of Mimi gets really fun. Mimi is promoted to a management position back in Sicily. Naturally, he brings Fiorella and the baby with him. He’s protective of his new family and paranoid that Rosalia will find out about it, so he leads a thorny double life that…let’s just say doesn’t end well.

The Seduction of Mimi is rough, moving along like an episode of The Benny Hill Show. It’s compelling nonetheless because it has a certain elegance. Wertmüller is known for mixing sex, class, and politics. It’s a tricky feat, but she manages to pull it off while keeping The Seduction of Mimi totally amusing even by today’s standards. The stuff with the mafia and the gay rumor that gets out because Mimi won’t have sex with Rosalia are both hilarious. The whole revenge subplot that involves getting Amalia (Elena Fiore) pregnant is brilliant on so many levels, and that scene at the end where all of Mimi’s children clamor for him calling him “Papa!” is perfect. Giannini with his bug-eyed Chaplinesque faces looks crazy throughout this film, nicely underscoring the insanity of his situation. I smiled a lot during this film.

With Turi Ferro, Luigi Diberti, Tuccio Musumeci, Ignazio Pappalardo, Gianfranco Barra, Livia Giampalmo

Production: Euro International Film

Distribution: New Line Cinema (USA), Kino Lorber

121 minutes
Rated R

(Gene Siskel Film Center) B

https://www.kinolorber.com/film/theseductionofmimi

Date Night

(USA 2010)

I love me some Tina Fey, I usually like Steve Carell, and I certainly won’t complain if Mark Wahlberg is shirtless in every scene. Add James Franco, Mila Kunis, Mark Ruffalo, Kristen Wiig, and even Common, and you’d expect to have a winner on your hands. Right? Wrong.

Date Night is a cute adventure film, but it’s certainly not an adventurous undertaking. It’s formulaic, predictable Hollywood milquetoast aimed at married suburban couples—director Shawn Levy’s specialty. Fey and Carell play the Fosters, a normal, middle-aged, overworked New Jersey couple whose longtime marriage has lost its mojo. They do date night periodically to keep things alive—it doesn’t seem to be working. One night, they decide to be adventurous and head to Manhattan. When they learn that the wait for a table at an exclusively hip restaurant will be a few hours because they don’t have a reservation, they pretend to be another couple, the Tripplehorns, to snag theirs. The Fosters end up with way more excitement than either of them bargained for after a pair of mobsters (Common and Jimmi Simpson) confronts them about a jump drive their boss (Ray Liotta) wants.

Fey and Carell have a sort of chemistry, but it’s benign. They do this thing where they imagine the conversations that patrons at other tables are having—it’s cute and very Seinfeldian. The Maitre D’ (Nick Kroll) is funny because he is such an asshole—in a David Spade way. Other than that, the laughs here are far and few between. The problem isn’t the actors—it’s Josh Klausner’s lame script, which plays out like a bland and weird ripoff of After Hours, Adventures in Babysitting, and True Romance. Date Night has a few good lines and a few good scenes, but not enough to make it funny for very long.

88 minutes
Rated PG-13

(TBS) D+

The Infiltrator

(USA 2016)

Bryan Cranston has come a long way from his stint as Tim Whatley, Jerry Seinfeld’s dentist. He’s an excellent choice to play Robert “Bob” Mazur, a U.S. Customs agent who in 1985 went undercover as fictitious New Jersey money launderer Bob Musella to work his way into the trafficking network of Colombian drug czar Pablo Escobar. With the assistance of fellow agents Emir Abreu (John Leguizamo) and Kathy Ertz (Diane Kruger), Mazur—to use his words—“followed the money” instead of the drugs. It led to one of the biggest drug busts in American history.

Based on Mazur’s memoir The Infiltrator: My Secret Life Inside the Dirty Banks Behind Pablo Escobar’s Medellín Cartel, director Brad Furman—whose mother, Ellen Brown Furman, wrote the script—lets Cranston go absolutely apeshit with his character. It’s impossible not to draw parallels between Mazur and Breaking Bad’s Walter White; it’s glaringly obvious that both characters are essentially family guys who choose a dangerous double life that consumes them to the point of losing who they are—not to mention their lives. This plays out exquisitely in a scene where a cartel member (Simón Andreu) who knows Musella spots Mazur and his wife, Evelyn (Juliet Aubrey), having a quiet anniversary dinner at a restaurant.

The Infiltrator is a good movie. Despite occasionally feeling like an episode of Miami Vice, it nonetheless has an intensity that slowly comes to a boil, and when it finally does: BOOM! The moral dilemma of betraying the people not only who come to trust Musella but also welcome him into their lives adds a dramatic slant that movies like this tend to lack. I was riveted. Considering its subject matter, though, The Infiltrator doesn’t exactly move fast. It’s more of a low key character study fueled by what’s going on in Mazur’s head. Benjamin Bratt, Yul Vazquez, and even Olympia Dukakis turn in great performances. There are some dark, funny moments along with some really unsettling scenes—like a weird voodoo ritual, an out-of-nowhere drive-by, and murder on the dance floor. It remains to be seen how memorable The Infiltrator proves to be, though.

127 minutes
Rated R

(AMC River East) B

http://www.theinfiltrator.com

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Some Like It Hot

(USA 1959)

An anonymous staff writer for Variety magazine reviewing Some Like It Hot upon its initial release in 1959 said it succinctly:

Some Like It Hot, directed in masterly style by Billy Wilder, is probably the funniest picture of recent memory. It’s a whacky, clever, farcical comedy that starts off like a firecracker and keeps on throwing off lively sparks till the very end.”

(http://variety.com/1959/film/reviews/some-like-it-hot-2-1200419454/)

And how! I never saw Some Like It Hot—I wasn’t sure how good or even funny it would be after nearly 60 years. My expectations were zero. I’m happy to report that it most certainly is a blast—the humor still works well, and the whole thing is deliciously tongue in cheek. I loved it.

Chicago, 1929: musicians Joe (Tony Curtis) and Jerry (Jack Lemmon) desperately need work. After inadvertently witnessing the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, they reluctantly accept a gig playing in a female jazz band headed to Florida—as female musicians, of course. Yes, in drag. Who knew sultry party girl Sugar Kane Kowalczyk (Marilyn Monroe) would be around, constantly threatening to blow their cover?

Loaded with sexual tension and humor, Some Like It Hot shows a side of the ’50s I didn’t realize existed: it’s brazen, offbeat, ardent, inspired, and totally original. Curtis, Lemmon, and Monroe are unstoppable together. The scene with Curtis and Monroe on the yacht is oddly hot. I definitely get the appeal of Monroe after seeing this—and I’ve seen in her other films, specifically Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Not the same effect at all. Joe E. Brown is unforgettable as cracker-barrel millionaire Osgood Fielding, who tries his damnedest to woo Daphne (Lemmon).

Some Like It Hot has the absolute best final scene—if not the absolute best final line—in film history. It’s a classic that everyone should see.

In 1989, the United States Library of Congress deemed Some Like It Hot “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” and selected it for preservation in the National Film Registry (https://www.loc.gov/programs/national-film-preservation-board/film-registry/complete-national-film-registry-listing/).

121 minutes
Not rated

(Music Box) A

http://www.afi.com/members/catalog/DetailView.aspx?Movie=53017