The Seduction of Mimi – A Film by Lina Wertmüller

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If only if only the evil people of the world were demarcated with a triangle of moles on their cheeks. How simply we would delegate our allegiances to those with clean faces… Or would we? “They’re all cousins!” Carmelo Mordocheo, (Giancarlo Gianini) points out to us in regards to the Italian mafia. It isn’t just the beautiful Trotskyite, Fiore Meneghini, (Mariangela Mareta) who plays a hand at The Seduction of Mimi (1972) but them, the Italian mafia, the cousins, those with the moles who get the very best of Mimi.

The story begins in Sicily where Carmelo Mordocheo or ‘Mimi’, a leftist blue collar worker, decides to vote for the Communist Party in what his friends insist is an anonymous ballot. He is suddenly fired from his job and ostensibly exiled from his hometown, family, and mistreated timid wife Rosalia (Agostina Belli). He tries his luck in Turin where he claims things are much more progressive to find only more of the same, three-moled Mafioso’s exploiting the labor of Italy’s impoverished working class. This time Mimi falls into a situation where he must save his skin from a group of thugs by lying to them, insisting that he is associatively ‘in the family.’ By some miracle, they believe his story and promote him to the position of a metal worker, thus he begins climbing the ranks. The story then drifts into a romance where we meet Fiore, a virgin Communist who catches the eye of Mimi in the most adoring set of montages. One in particular where their feuding is intercut back and forth with their loneliness meanderings of Turin. Next thing we know, there they are crying in tender close ups, her refusal of his romances comes to a close as she surrenders to his love. Although we cringe at Mimi’s nonchalance towards numerous infidelities, it’s hard not to believe the weight carried in Gianini’s performance. As the story trots along, Mimi and Fiore get hitched and even have a child as he climbs the metallurgic ranks and attends less and less meetings of the comrades.

The seduction of Mimi is one that creeps up throughout the film so tactfully, that the audience too becomes duped. Wertmüller suggests it happens as simply as this; despite finding fault in the powers that be, the more we struggle through our own daily distractions, the less we care to burden our load with even more things to worry about. Especially when it’s oh so much more convenient to keep quiet and look after yourself. In a conversation between Fiore and Mimi, Fiore asks him when the last time he’s been to a meeting with the comrades, his response is overtaken by the kicking of the baby in her stomach.

When his mob bosses forge his signature for employment relocation, Mimi, his newly wedded Fiore, and their son are to return to Catania, Mimi’s Sicilian hometown. His old friends question him about his Communist endeavors to which he has little to report, his wife Rosalia now a bit more mature with the passing of time wonders why he won’t sleep with her– because he’s become ‘fatigued’ of course. When he discovers of Rosalia’s pregnancy, the story shifts gears to a total revenge piece on her devilish romancer. With an almost Kubrickian sense of teasing at the male ego, Mimi’s must make right what has been wronged when his family name is on the line.

The Seduction of Mimi’s greatest treasure is in its demeanor. Wertmüller mines sheer gold from Giancarlo Gianini as his nearly slapstick performance reminds me of Charlie Chaplin or Rowan Atkinson. In a scene where it’s Mimi’s turn to do the seducing, he very comedically courts Signora Finnochiaro, (Elena Fiore) the hefty middle aged wife of his arch nemesis. After much failure and even an unsettling amount of physical force, she finally agrees. Their argument swiftly becomes a provocative ceremonious pre-coital dance which is as funny as it is bizarre. A few frames later beholds what is probably the most memorable image of this film, Signora Finnochiaro’s impossibly large and naked buttocks as she crawls atop a petrified Mimi.

Nearly a quarter of a century after The Bicycle Thief (1948) left an imprint on Italian filmmaking, comes Lina Wertmüller, the first woman ever nominated an Academy Award for Best Director, to carry the torch forward. Antonio Ricci is enticed by the same forces that move Mimi Mordocheo. Both protagonists becomes exactly what they despise in order to save their own skin. The characters are tossed around by the apprehension towards struggle and the overwhelming drives of pride and love. The story of this film illuminates how these facets integrate seamlessly with the manifestation of the political world. When the game is survival, and all its players have their own agenda, the preferred instrument of victory inevitably becomes– seduction.

Review By: Tyler Taormina

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