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
(Gene Siskel Film Center) B