When film fans list the giants of Italian cinema, certain names are bound to come up: Antonioni, Bertolucci, De Sica, Fellini, Pasolini, Rossellini, Visconti. Lina Wertmüller is frequently forgotten.
Wertmüller deserves her place in the international film pantheon. Wertmüller told stories steeped in her own deeply held convictions about social classes, gender roles and political engagement. Her absurdist sensibility lent a humorously jaded perspective on the nature of human interaction, and her often long-winded film titles transformed these interactions into poetry.
Cinestudio in Hartford honors Wertmüller in August with a seven-film retrospective of her work called "Seven Beauties," which will run Aug. 11 to 24. Also included in the series is a documentary about the filmmaker made in 2015 to honor her life and work. "Behind the White Glasses" is an overview of her films, her influences, her coworkers and the high and low points of her career.
Wertmüller's start in the film industry was an extraordinarily lucky break: She was an assistant director on the great auteur Federico Fellini's legendary 1963 semi-autobiographical film "8 1/2." The very next year she struck out on her own, making a film focusing on the lives and troubles of the working classes. This became the subject of many of her movies, many of which depict sympathetically the conflicts working people have with the powerful: Mafiosos, billionaires, government officials.
Each film will be shown twice in the Wertmüller series.
"The Seduction of Mimi" (original title "Mimi, Metal-worker, Wounded in Honor"), the 1972 comedy starring Wertmüller's frequent collaborators Giancarlo Giannini and Mariangela Melato, tells the story of a working-class man chased out of his small town after the local Mafia don finds out he voted for a Communist Party candidate. It will be shown Aug. 11 and 20, both at 7:30 p.m.
"Seven Beauties" (original title "Pasqualino Seven Beauties"), the 1975 drama about a wily, charming man (Giannini) who does what he must to survive, and whose decisions eventually land him in a Nazi concentration camp. The film, considered Wertmüller's masterpiece, earned her an Oscar nomination for best director, the first woman to achieve this accomplishment. It also was nominated for best foreign-language film, best actor (Giannini) and best original screenplay, by Wertmüller. It will be shown Aug. 12 at 7:30 p.m. and Aug. 20 at 2:30 p.m.
"Swept Away" (original title "Swept Away by an Unusual Destiny in the Blue Sea of August"), the 1974 variation on the theme of "The Taming of the Shrew." Melato portrays an arrogant, bullying rich capitalist who is forced to rely on the superior survival skills of her Communist deckhand (Giannini) when both are stranded on a deserted island. It will be shown Aug. 13 at 2:30 p.m. and Aug. 19 at 7:30 p.m.
"All Screwed Up" (original title "Everything's OK but Nothing Works"), the 1974 story of immigrant factory workers living in a commune in Milan during a turbulent period in Italian history. It will be shown Aug. 13 and 18, both at 7:30 p.m.
"Love and Anarchy" (original title "At 10 O'clock This Morning on the Via dei Fiori in a Well-Known Bordello"), the story of an anarchist (Giannini) who holes up in a Roman brothel and falls in love with a prostitute while he waits for his opportunity to assassinate Benito Mussolini. It also stars Melato. It will be shown Aug. 14 and 23, both at 7:30 p.m.
"Summer Night" (original title "Summer Night with Greek Profile, Almond Eyes and Scent of Basil"), the 1986 comedy about a rich woman (Melato) who kidnaps a notorious kidnapper of rich people and holds him for ransom. It will be shown Aug. 15 and 21, both at 7:30 p.m.
"Ferdinando and Carolina," the 1999 historical comedy about the 18th-century King of Naples, who is in love with a married woman and is forced to marry an Austrian princess for political reasons. It will be shown Aug. 16 and 22, both at 7:30 p.m.
"Behind the White Glasses," the 2015 documentary about Wertmüller, directed by Valerio Ruiz. It stars Wertmüller, Giannini, Melato, Martin Scorsese, Sophia Loren, Nastassja Kinski and Harvey Keitel. It will be shown Aug. 17 and 24, both at 7:30 p.m.
SEVEN BEAUTIES, a Lina Wertmüller film series, runs Aug. 11 to 24 at Cinestudio, 300 Summit St., on the campus of Trinity College in Hartford. Admission to each film is $10, $8 seniors and students, $7 for Friends of Cinestudio. cinestudio.org.