Sex and politics. Those two sometimes risky, delicate subjects make up the brunt of Lina Wertmuller's farcical comedy, 'The Seduction of Mimi.' A satirical send-up of love, lust, revenge, and honor, the film subverts and celebrates the joys and pitfalls of romance while simultaneously lampooning the corruption of government. Led by Giancarlo Giannini's effortless, comedic charm, the movie presents an entertaining and at times truly hilarious experience. There are a few lulls here and there where the story starts to drag, but by and large the scripting, acting and direction remain fun, unpredictable and engaging throughout.
Mimi is a well meaning, low level laborer who just wants to go about his business without getting into trouble. When the local mafia "asks" him to vote for a specific candidate in an upcoming election, a burst of ethical independence causes him to refuse. While he may have taken the moral high ground, he is forced out of town and must leave his wife and family to find work elsewhere. In his new surroundings he quickly falls in love with another woman (Mariangela Melato). Despite his best efforts, he continues to find himself in increasingly humorous entanglements with the mafia, and eventually he is forced to move back home -- along with his mistress. As his two lives intersect, the lovable loser's world is turned upside down, leading to a series of hilarious consequences.
Silly, ridiculous, exaggerated, but still quite intelligent, the story is full of biting wit and manic personalities. The hypocritical realities of romance and passion are satirized to great effect and Wertmuller injects a mostly balanced helping of drama and heart into the proceedings. Certain characters carry larger-than-life personas that work well to elicit laughs and though the farce can get pretty out there at times, the movie retains a certain level of realism. Sort of. Awkward interactions, misunderstandings, cartoonish arguments, and hilarious facial expression are all common place. Dialogue is often very funny, but what's more impressive is how much comedy Wertmuller and her actors are able to pull off through visual gags alone.
Under the hands of a truly great comedic performer, simple reaction shots can take on a hilarious life of their own -- sometimes stealing the thunder from the bizarre jokes and interactions that incite them in the first place. As evidenced in 'The Seduction of Mimi,' Giancarlo Giannini is such a performer. With a contradictory mixture of goofy charisma, lovable melancholy, and inept rage, the actor absolutely lights up the screen. His silly facial expressions and memorable reactions to the events and characters around him are the real highlight of the movie. With a simple grimace, bewildered curl of his brow or wide-eyed look of shock, Giannini is able to provoke a steady stream of foolish amusement. Beyond the surface comedy of the role, the actor also imbues a few deeper qualities into the character, and though the impulsive rogue does a few fairly detestable things throughout the runtime, he always remains likeable. Mariangela Melato is also very entertaining to watch, and the two performers share great on-screen chemistry.
Director Lina Wetmuller brings a playful visual aesthetic to the screen. Zooms become a frequent visual motif, emphasizing certain moments and gags (particularly a repeated joke involving moles on related characters' faces). Romantic sequences also feature a few interesting techniques, and a montage scene involving Mimi's courtship of Fiorella that gradually shows him wearing down her emotional wall is well choreographed. Though I don't want to spoil its absurd brilliance here, the film's most iconic scene is truly memorable (even if one would rather it not be). Focused on Mimi's attempt at revenge for being slighted by another man, the expertly staged and timed sequence is home to some pretty unforgettable images that carry an almost Fellini-esque sense of exaggerated hilarity.
While the film's goofy sense of humor and lively direction are fun to watch, there are unfortunately a few dry spots here and there. A couple of scenes -- particularly during the film's middle portions -- start to drag a bit, and some light trimming could have helped the flow of the narrative and comedy. Dramatic elements also don't always work so well, and while humor is almost always present in some capacity, the more serious certain sequences attempt to be, the less appealing they become. Thankfully, these tedious spots aren't very common, and the film's most dubious stretch quickly gives way to an inspired and gleefully riotous climax.
A comedy about cuckolding, 'The Seduction of Mimi' is a fun, farcical Italian romp that succeeds thanks to the manic charm of its lead actor and the good-humored style of its director. The pace isn't always as smooth as it could be, and certain scenes weigh down an otherwise steady rhythm of romance and humor, but the film works regardless, and the third act is home to some truly outrageous sequences. Sex and politics mingle together to form a delightful and cheerfully silly satire. While it might not be up to par with the works of other Italian masters like Fellini, it's certainly worth a look.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Kino brings 'The Seduction of Mimi' to Blu-ray on a BD-25 disc packaged in a keepcase. After some logos and warnings the disc transitions to a standard menu.
The movie is provided with a 1080p/AVC transfer in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio. Though mostly solid, there are a few inconstancies and visual oddities that hold back the video presentation.
The print is in nice shape with only a few specks and vertical lines visible here and there. A light to moderate layer of grain is usually apparent, but its appearance is inconsistent and can look a little unnatural, noisy and static at times. Going along with this, is a faintly compressed and smeary quality in some shots. Thankfully, most of the presentation looks decently resolved. Clarity is good in close-ups, but only OK in wider shots, lacking distinct detail and textures. Colors are quite pleasing, and the film features a vivid palette of pastel hues. The silly, colorful designs on Mimi and Fiorella's sweaters are particularly striking. Contrast levels are high with bright whites. Shadow detail is good but overall black levels can look just a tad light.
The film's grain structure is a bit suspect at times and there are some faint signs of compression, but the majority of the picture looks pretty good. Despite a comparatively soft look, the film's colors offer nice pop and an occasional splash of dimension.
The audio is presented in a DTS-HD MA 1.0 mono track with optional English subtitles. Basic but respectable, the single channel of audio does what it can without any major issues.
Dialogue is fairly crisp but does suffer from a slightly thin quality. Effects and score are handled well within the single channel of the mix, and even high frequencies (like some high pitched whistling in the film's opening) come through cleanly without straining or distorting. Dynamic range is on the flat side and bass activity is negligible.
The track sounds just fine with no major instances of crackle or hissing. The mono mix has certain inherent limitations, but the audio suits the film well.
'The Seduction of Mimi' is a charming, silly, satirical comedy about sex, politics, and cuckolding. Despite a few lulls in the script, Giancarlo Giannini turns in a masterful performance, fueled by a penchant for memorable reaction shots. Though the video transfer has a few issues, the overall presentation is decent. Audio is solid but there are some inherent limitations with the source material. Disappointingly, the only supplement we get is a fairly useless gallery of five unremarkable stills. The disc isn't exactly great but it gets the job done, and the film is definitely worth a look.