The two things that drive men crazy are love and politics. The former feigns a hopeful future driven by an idealism that would benefit all equally but only ends up serving the private interests of a very few. The latter generates feelings of hope and happiness driven by a sense of security that's mutual and beneficial. That is, before the real world interrupts the honeymoon with pressures that put a strain on the relationship. Then there are couples from different political stances or those where one partner doesn't share in the identical partisan ideals of the other. Ultimately, love and politics should never ever mix unless you're ready for some wildly passionate debates that eventually go nowhere, rendering the ideas expressed therein pretty much meaningless and leaving everyone wondering what the argument was about in the first place.
Poor country-boy Tunin (Giancarlo Giannini) comes to this realization the hard way and when it's already too late to back out from any commitments. After discovering his murdered friend was an anarchist plotting an assassination of Benito Mussolini, the naïve simpleton with a childlike understanding of politics takes up the cause out of revenge and with little knowledge of the world outside his country living. He meets his friend's contact Salomè (Mariangela Melato) at a brothel in Rome where she works as a high-class prostitute and whose dedication to the cause is also spurred by a terrible memory of a childhood friend. The two develop a camaraderie based on similar ideals for justice and their shared hatred of a primitively crude fascist regime they're forced to tolerate, hilariously characterized by the head of Mussolini's secret police Spatoletti (Eros Pagni).
Giannini and Melato are a marvelous combination of carefree wit and complex seriousness, working off each with impeccable timing and offbeat but winning personalities. Melato's Salomè lives up to her historic namesake with an easygoing foolishness and open-minded vulgarity that functions as her most seductive attribute, but is in actuality the mask of melancholic soul surviving from one day to the next. She's a femme fatale with a heavy-heart and a frustrated resentment. By contrast, Giannini's Tunin is an absurdly shy middle-aged man, bringing in a terrifically comical fish-out-of-water angle to the plot. Giannini adds a splendid touch to his performance with his wide-eyed gullibility as if in perpetual amazement of the world, which works wonderfully since he's a meek farm boy continually surprised by the direct frankness of others' debaucheries.
It makes for a rather absorbing and dazzling film as we watch the lovable boob slowly expand his worldview, interestingly represented in his love affair with Salomè's fellow working girl, Tripolina (Lina Polito). Lina Wertmüller, director of the equally funny 'Seven Beauties' and who also wrote the script here, ingeniously places the two opposing forces — love and politics, which oddly incite the same passionate fervor as the other — within a world of two polar extremes: a brothel of undesirables with a love of country and culture at the center of a fascist government wishing to eradicate them. With an animated cast of characters, Wertmüller delivers an impassioned and inspiringly quirky tale of a man with a big heart struggling to maintain his ideals with a single-minded purpose, going against his inner desire for love and an awareness of his mortality.
'Love & Anarchy' is a skillfully subtle political satire, satisfied with elusive, indirect jabs at the absurdity of personal welfare and happiness contradicting the goals of the wealthy ruling class with government power. It seems fortuitous the film should be made available for home viewing only months away from a major political race guaranteed to turn into a circus of conflicting ideologies. It's fascinating to see the film, despite not being well-known, remain relevantly topical like this, even though Wertmüller doesn't outright claim a specific stance but clearly the story's heart is on the side of those hurting by a flawed system. It goes back to the idea of those doing the fighting soon forgetting what all the bickering is really about, turning it into a sad tragic comedy of nothing being resolved and chalking it up as an inconsequential incident at a noted brothel at ten in morning.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Kino Lorber brings 'Love & Anarchy' to Blu-ray under the distributor's "Kino Classics" label. Housed inside a normal blue keepcase, the Region Free, BD25 disc goes straight to the main menu with full-motion clips and music.
'Love & Anarchy' cause a ruckus on Blu-ray with a very nice, often striking 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode (1.85:1). Definition and resolution is beautifully detailed with lots of clean, sharp lines of the streets and buildings throughout Rome. Individual threads in Tunin's clothing are distinct while close-ups expose every freckle and wrinkle of the actor's face. Contrast is well-balanced and accurate to the original photographic style of the period and of Giuseppe Rotunno ('All that Jazz,' 'Amarcord,' 'The Leopard'). The color palette is bright with energetic primaries and warm secondary hues. Blacks could be a tad stronger, but they're otherwise deep and mostly true with good shadow delineation.
The print's ages does come through on several occasions, showing some softness in a number of scenes and resolution noticeably dips in others. Overall, the film appears to be in great shape and makes a nice transition to high-def.
Kino presents the comedy in its original Italian language with English subtitles on a DTS-HD Master Audio mono soundtrack. Despite the obvious ADR work creating a weird impression of lip-sync issues, dialogue reproduction is sturdy and carried well in the center of the screen. The single channel comes with excellent imaging and a nice, eclectic sense of presence that's quite engaging. The mid-range is clean and accurately detailed, but a few of the upper ranges are a tad shrill and bright. It's particularly noticeable during the wonderful score of Carlo Savina and Nino Rota, which doesn't necessarily distract from their enjoyment but can take away some of the music's finer distinct qualities. Bass is good and hearty, especially when listening to songs with the acoustic guitar playing in the background.
Supplements are very light and inconsequential.
'Love & Anarchy' is the very subtle political satire from Lina Wertmüller, starring Giancarlo Giannini and Mariangela Melato. It's an offbeat and highly spirited tragicomedy about the sometimes frustrations attached to idealistic, lofty goals and the funny complexities surrounding both human emotion and politics. The Blu-ray arrives with a very good audio and video presentation, but nothing really worth noting in the bonus area. Fans of Italian cinema and quirky comedies in general should give this Wertmüller classic a rent.