Lina Wertmüller, the Italian filmmaker who was the first woman to be nominated for an Oscar for best director, has died at the age of 93 in Rome. Wertmüller, whose lurid political fables made a major impact on international cinema in the early 1970s, was nominated for an Oscar for her 1975 film Seven Beauties, receiving an honorary Oscar in 2019.
Born in 1928 in Rome, Wertmüller, whose full name was Arcangela Felice Assunta Wertmüller von Elgg Spanol von Braueich, due to her partly Swiss ancestry, became interested in theater and acting at age 20, touring Europe with a puppet company , before coming to I know the film director Federico Fellini (through a friend from school who was married to the actor Marcello Mastroianni). She worked as an assistant director on Fellini’s 1963 masterpiece 8 1/2 (“I was the worst assistant, but that was overlooked because it was nice,” she later told The Guardian), and made her own debut. film in the same year with The Basilisk, a slow-paced portrait of life in a southern Italian city, and which benefited from a score by Ennio Morricone.
Wertmüller followed The Basilisks with a number of supposedly commercial films, including the spaghetti western The Belle Star Story, which he co-directed with Piero Cristofani under the joint name Nathan Wich and co-wrote under the name George Brown.
But the more directly political films on which his reputation primarily rests were released in the following decade, several of them starring regular collaborator Giancarlo Giannini (better known to British audiences as French actor René Mathis in the Bond films Casino Royale. and Quantum of Solace). They include The Seduction of Mimi (1972), with Giannini as a construction worker with a complicated personal life; Love and Anarchy (1973), about a would-be murderer who falls in love with a prostitute; and Swept Away (1974), later remade by Madonna and Guy Ritchie, about a wealthy woman trapped on a desert island with a member of her ship’s crew.
Seven Beauties, which again features Giannini as an Italian mobster who ends up in a Nazi concentration camp, opened in 1975 and won a handful of Oscar nominations: In addition to best director, Wertmüller was nominated for best original screenplay and best picture in foreign language. and Giannini for best actor.
Her growing international profile led to a Hollywood contract, and Wertmüller wrote and directed the English-language romance drama A Night Full of Rain, starring Candice Bergen alongside Giannini. But the film was not a success and his career in Hollywood quickly faded. However, he returned to Italy and continued to release films, albeit without the success of the 1970s. “Really, there are two strands, two souls, that coexist in my work: the cheerful one associated with musical comedies and the more socially conscious” he told The Guardian.
In 1990 he directed Sophia Loren in a television adaptation of Eduardo De Filippo’s play Saturday, Sunday, Monday and a decade later in the television movie Francesca e Nunziata. Parallel to his work in film and television, he directed several operas, including Carmen in 1986 and La Boheme in 1997; she also voiced the voice of Grandma Fa for the Italian premiere of the 1998 Disney animated film Mulan.
Wertmüller was also known for the comically long titles of many of her films – its 1978 release, Blood Feud, holds the longest record in history, according to Guinness World Records. The full title, with 179 characters, is: “An act of blood in the town of Siculiana between two men because of a widow. Political motives are suspected. Love-Death-Shimmy. Beautiful Lugano. Tarantelle. Tarallucci and wine “.
Wertmüller’s pioneering status was belatedly recognized, leading to the honorary Oscar whose masculinity he memorably objected to.
Wertmüller was married to costume designer Enrico Job until his death in 2008.