Home Video Hovel- The Seduction of Mimi, by Scott Nye
The Seduction of Mimi was my introduction to Lina Wertmüller, and glad I was to make her acquaintance. Her willingness to turn on its head common storytelling structure was immediately evident, though a viewer more informed than myself would recognize that even sooner. The full Italian title – Mimi metallurgico ferito nell’onore – translates more literally to Mimi the metalworker, wounded in honor. Wermüller had an affinity for long, whimsical titles, and in fact holds the record for the longest film title with one too long to print here. The Seduction of Mimi marked her first collaboration with actor Giancarlo Giannini, a fruitful partnership that would yield four more films, and it’s easy to see why she took to him so – both possess total abandon.
Giannini plays Carmelo Mardocheo (his friends call him Mimi), a man with too much courage and too little brain. After being encouraged to vote for a Mafia representative in a local election, Mimi, having been told it’s a secret ballot, votes instead for the communist. When his friends then tell him, “no, of course it’s not really a secret ballot,” Mimi goes on the run. From there, he changes allegiances, women, jobs, towns, clothes, and truths, becoming whatever he needs to in order to scrape by and avoid the seemingly omnipresent Mafia. But this is hardly the story of a downtrodden innocent. What makes Wertmüller so winning is that she’s able to represent a communist/feminist viewpoint despite situating her protagonist as uniquely neither. True, Mimi flirts with communism as one of many steps along the road, but he totally ignores the early suggestion that every decision is political, choosing time and time again his own pleasure and comfort rather than considering the impact on himself or the world around him. Which, of course, in the eyes of Wertmüller, makes him the perfect object of mockery, and in the few scenes that aren’t laugh-out-loud funny, Giannini’s total commitment to Mimi’s vast stupidity never ceases to amuse.
The film does require a, shall we say, liberal attitude towards what is and is not appropriate to joke about. When people talk about no-limits humor, they’re usually referring to a film’s casual attitude towards sex or violence, but the film still toes a certain line by presenting a character distinctly removed from such behavior. So when Wertmüller (very successfully) stages comedy around domestic abuse or sexual assault, you know you’ve wandered into some interesting terrain. It’s not that she doesn’t acknowledge the horror of it, but she’s even more eager to totally undermine the aggressor’s power by exaggerating the silly, pointless emotions driving his actions. It’s certainly a bold piece of satire, but a surprisingly satisfying one.
Kino brings The Seduction of Mimi to Blu-ray in a very appealing transfer. Colors are nice and bold insofar as Italian film stock of the 1970s would allow, so there’s a natural faded quality to it, which is nonetheless appealing in its own manner. But the image is crisp and clear for the majority of the film, showing few signs of damage, decent depth, and a pleasing, film-like layer of grain. The picture may be at times a shade too “waxy,” but on the whole I found little to complain about, and much to love.
No special features, I’m afraid, save for a rather small stills gallery. I can say that if this is up your alley, it’s more than worth owning and there are vast pleasures, some of which are easily missed on first viewing, worth revisiting. In addition to the Blu-ray release, Kino is also putting this and two other Wertmüller films (which will be reviewed on this site as well) in a three-disc DVD set at a cheaper price, if that’s the sort of thing you might be interested in. But whatever you must do to get ahold of this, I’d definitely recommend it. Nothing like skewering cinematic construction with a strong dose of communism.