Friday, September 4, 2015

CANON OF FILM: "SWEPT AWAY BY AN UNUSUAL DESTINY IN THE BLUE SEA OF AUGUST"

SWEPT AWAY BY AN UNUSUAL DESTINY IN THE BLUE SEA OF AUGUST (1974)

Director/Screenplay: Lina Wertmuller



I can completely understand Guy Ritchie wanting to remake this film, and I can understand casting Madonna in the lead role, and I can understand, quite how she can want to do this film. Yet, when Guy Ritchie’s “Swept Away,” was released, it got scathing reviews and was hated by the public, and the public was right, despite the fact that the movie actually stayed fairly true to its original source. I didn’t hate it as much as some people, but the only reason that film worked as well as it actually did, was because the source material was so rich to begin with, but “Swept Away By an Unusual Destiny in the Blue Sea of August,” wasn’t just a movie about two people who switched class systems once they both got stuck on a desert island, it was a well-thought political commentary as well as at the time, and to some degree even now, a very controversial depiction of the desires of females. The movie was written and directed by Lina Wertmuller, one of the most important and controversial names in filmmaking for the past 50 years. She worked as an assistant to Federico Fellini before going out on her own, and in 1976, with her film “Seven Beauties,” she became the first woman to ever get an Oscar nomination for Best Director. (The only other three woman that have achieved that are Jane Campion for “The Piano,” and Sofia Coppola for “Lost in Translation” and Kathryn Bigelow, who's the only won that's won for "The Hurt Locker".) Two years earlier with “Swept Away By an Unusual Destiny in the Blue Sea of August” (Yeah, she often liked very long titles to her films, the translations of her films titles are often shortened) she touched a nerve with this comedy.

The movie involves a bearded Communist sailor, who’s working as a servant on a yacht for a man, and his wife who takes pleasures in sunbathing and continually insulting the man, who gets exceptionally annoyed, but doesn’t do anything about it. Then, the wife asks to go out swimming very late in the day, and when the dingy’s motor breaks down, the two are adrift in the middle of the Mediterranean for a couple days, before eventually ending up on a deserted island, where Raffaela’s (Mariangela Melato) constant insulting of Gennarino (Giancarlo Giannini) finally catch up to her. While she, eventually begins to submit, to Gennarino’s every desire and basically become his slave she begins to fall in love with him. Now, Wertmuller is a leftist, but she actually is not a feminist, and you consider the kind of balls it took back in 1974 to dare such a position, especially from the world’s leading female in filmmaking. The more she insults him, the harder and more vicious he hits her, and the more she enjoys it. Eventually to the point of insisting on such sexual practices Gennarino hadn’t even heard of, or for that matter couldn’t pronounce. Despite me and Wertmuller’s disagreements on the views of feminism, the movie sets it up so well, and is so brilliantly acted and written, that we buy into the premise. And on top of all of that, the movie is legitimately funny when it needs to be, and very erotic when it needs to be. The movie doesn’t stay at one rhythmic pace, it keeps changing and swerving like the waves of the sea, with the final wave after their rescue being the one that hits hardest, but it is not surprising if we follow the metaphor correctly. That’s the other thing, Wertmuller doesn’t just give opinions, although she does, but she criticizes and thinks them through logically on both sides, so we don’t just feel like were watching propaganda disguised as eroticism and comedy, although it might be the other way around with her. 

Note.:  I wasn't planning on putting the English-dubbed version of the film up there, it's not horrible dubbing, but I really couldn't find a good English-language trailer, so it's this film. I'd rather watch the movie with subtitles and in it's original Italian, but again, this isn't bad. 
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